Rosario experiencing consistent senior year

At any other point in his career, Mike Rosario wouldn't have handled Saturday with the maturity he showed. The redshirt senior was taking bad shots and being careless with the ball against Alabama, so Florida head coach Billy Donovan put him on the bench for the last 12 minutes of the game. Instead of pouting, Rosario spent the rest of the game cheering for his teammates and being positive.

"I probably handled it better than I would have years ago," Mike Rosario said. "That's just because I didn't understand the things I understand now about being accountable, trusting your head coach, and knowing that your teammates have high expectations for you.

What a difference a year makes.

Billy Donovan has been focal about the enjoyment he gets from coaching Rosario, but it isn't for the reasons he'll say it about other players. Coaching Rosario is a challenge. There's never a day off from working with him and trying to show him how to correctly carry himself on and off the court.

Rosario's learning more every day, but now in the fifth year of his college career, Donovan has spent most of this season feeling like he can trust the senior. That wasn't always the case.

When Rosario was at Rutgers and passing the 1,000-point plateau during his first two seasons, there wasn't much restriction. He could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted to do it. The former McDonald's All-American was viewed as the savior for the Rutgers program, and they didn't want to make him unhappy.

"When I first got here, I didn't really understand coach, as far as – you have to be responsible for everything you do, be on time for everything," Rosario said. "It was a different transition because I was so used to, basically – if you give me an inch, I'd take a yard when I was at Rutgers.

"It was different playing for Coach Billy. It was his way or the highway."

Rosario chose Donovan's way, and that decision is the reason he's leading the Gators with 12.9 points per game during his final year. Those numbers seem like a down year compared to what he was doing at Rutgers, when he averaged 16.2 and 16.7 points in his first two years respectively.

Rosario could score at will and take whatever shot he wanted. No shot was off limits for a team that was deficient of talent.

Some of that element is still in Rosario's game. He'll take the circus shot, sometimes throw a ball off the side of the backboard while trying to create offense or launch a pass into the second row of the stands, like he did on Saturday. Those elements can sometimes be a positive for Rosario. He'll produce the jaw-dropping move on offense or the floater in the lane that looks like it has no chance to go in.

He's a scorer at heart, so transitioning to a school where he was asked to be a part of a team was a challenge. But it's the reason he left Rutgers to play at a top program.

He wanted to win.

"I knew that coming into this situation, I was going to have to basically do a whole new chapter. I just looked at it as a challenge and just being a part of this program and this winning tradition here was going to be a different standard. I knew coming into this situation it wasn't going to be easy. And that's why I knew I was going to have to take on the challenge."

When he walks to midcourt to greet his family before Wednesday night's home finale against Vanderbilt, the emotions wont take long to show. They might be from his family or from Rosario himself, but it's a meaningful night for the senior.

He heard the doubts about his transfer. Some of those around his questioned the move from Rutgers to Florida. He was the man on the Rutgers campus. Senior night shows he was able to make it work for one of the top teams in the country.

"It's going to be a very emotional day for me," Rosario said. "I had a lot of people doubt that I could make it up to this point. There's a lot of people back home saying that by me making this transition, moving from Rutgers to Florida, that everything is not going to work out. Things are not going to go the way I expect them to be. I just feel that in my heart I can make everything happen that I want to happen. The only thing I can do is control the things I can control.

"Coming into this situation, everyone was just like, ‘Why?' They asked me why this and why that. As coach would tell us, you've got to block those people out. It's just a distraction to the process. I feel I did a great job of doing that in my transition coming in and I just had to be patient and wait until I guess my turn."

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