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Rosario recognizes how to make mark

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario arrived at Florida as a former McDonald's All-American and a 1,000-point college scorer after two prolific years up north.

Senior guard Mike Rosario dribbles down the floor in Florida's 74-56 win over Wisconsin on Wednesday.

But things didn't go quite as planned when he hit the hardwood in Gainesville.

"I felt last year he provided nothing for our team because he was never responsible, never accountable and wasn't reliable," said coach Billy Donovan Wednesday, recalling Rosario's junior season, when he contributed just 6.6 points in 14.4 minutes per game.

Now, Rosario's in the starting lineup for the Gators. Through two games, he's averaging a team-high 31 minutes per game and chipping in 14.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

So what changed, exactly?

"Unlike a year ago when you corrected him and he had all the answers and solutions to everything: the world, politics, what's going on," Donovan said, "Right now he's actually listening and comfortable."

To say Rosario was a bit of a head case and a source of frustration for Donovan a year ago is probably an understatement.

The 17th-year Florida coach blasted his senior guard before the season began, criticizing Rosario's willingness to play through minor injuries and show up to practice every day with a consistent work ethic.

"I like Mike, he's a good kid, he's a great teammate. He's about the guys, he's a touchy-feely kind of guy, he's high fives, he's hugs. He cares for the guys on his team, but he's one of those guys where you kind of give him an inch and he's trying to take an inch to a yard. And then a yard to... and before you know it..." Donovan said, voice trailing off.

Whatever happened in the offseason, whether Donovan finally got through or Rosario realized his time was running out to make an impact, Florida is certainly reaping the benefits early on this season.

After a convincing win over Wisconsin in which Florida shot 61.9 percent from the floor, Rosario instantly began talking about the team's defensive effort when asked how fun it was to shoot so well.

This coming from a guy who played inconsistent defense throughout the year not too long ago.

"We don't live on [shooting] because there's nights when the ball's not gonna fall," Rosario said. "I thought that the last couple games, we've been doing a great job defensively, rebounding the ball as well. That's something that we try to take advantage of, making our defense one of the best defenses in the country."

That sounds an awful lot like someone who's bought into Donovan's system.

It might not have been easy for the Florida coach to finally get through, but he said he never got tired of trying. It's starting to look like it's going to pay off in a big way for the Gators.

"I love dealing with him because it's complete confrontation and it's chaotic. It's great with him," Donovan said. "He finally knows, like, you're not getting your way. That totally last year like sent him into a tailspin.

"I think he's in a good place right now. I'm proud of him. I think I made those comments going into the season that I felt like has been pretty consistent going back to September. He's been pretty consistent every day and he's earned the opportunity to be on the floor right now."

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