Rosario to start exhibition game


Mike Rosario led the Gators in scoring off the bench with 6.6 points per game last season.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 at 11:47 p.m.

During preseason media day, Florida coach Billy Donovan laid out the challenge to talented but temperamental senior guard Mike Rosario.

Donovan wanted more consistency from Rosario after the 6-foot-3 Rutgers transfer sat out 25 practices with various minor ailments.

The buttons that Donovan pushed worked. Rosario, who came off the bench last season, will start for the Gators in UF's lone official exhibition game Thursday against Nebraska-Kearney.

“It feels great,” Rosario said. “This has been an opportunity that I have been waiting for and a challenge that I've been waiting for. I'm overly excited for Thursday.”

Donovan said UF's starting five is not set in stone. But for the second straight season, it appears that UF will go with a three-guard starting lineup. Joining Rosario on the floor will be senior guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin. Erik Murphy will start at power forward and Patric Young will start at center.

“Mike has done a good job,” Donovan said. “I think, as far as my trust level for him on the court, it's growing and growing because he's taking care of his responsibilities.”

Rosario started Saturday in UF's informal scrimmage against Rollins College.

“He had some very, very good moments in the scrimmage and other times, he had some moments he needed to get better at,” Donovan said. “What I've been most pleased with him at this point in time, from a consistency standpoint, him coming in each and every day. I feel we're not all over the place. He's coming in each and every day and he's taking care of his business.”

So far, it's been a contrast from last season. Donovan lamented that Rosario missed 10 practices last season due to a hip pointer. “A hip pointer?” Donovan said two-and-a-half weeks ago at media day. “My daughter could play through that.”

Rosario said he didn't take Donovan's comments personally.

“That's just Coach D,” Rosario said. “I guess that's his motivation toward me, getting me going. I look at it as motivation as well. I thought those comments really pushed me.”

Rosario said he feels like he has developed good chemistry with Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin.

“It's been good, especially with the chemistry me and Scottie had playing with the second team last year,” Rosario said. “Me, Kenny and him together it's been great so far. We look forward to being on the court together.”

Donovan said he has concerns about rebounding with the three-guard starting lineup. But Rosario, a former McDonald's All-American, brings scoring ability that will be needed with the loss of one-and-done freshman Bradley Beal. Rosario was UF's leading scorer off the bench last season at 6.6 points per game and was ninth in the Big East in scoring (16.7 ppg) as a sophomore at Rutgers.

“He's very crafty,” said Florida freshman guard Michael Frazier, who defends Rosario is practice. “He's not the quickest guy, but he knows how to get to certain spots on the floor. He's very deceptive with his moves.”

Donovan said he will mix and match throughout the season with juniors Casey Prather and Will Yeguete. Prather will play some small forward and power forward, while Yeguete will fill spots at power forward and center.

“We have the flexibility where if we were playing a team where maybe size-wise was a tough matchup with a small forward, I'd have no problem putting Casey in here, he can play,” Donovan said. “To say that's the starting lineup for the year, with Mike there, it could be some games, it may not be other games. But I wanted to throw Mike out there because I think he has done a good job and he has played well and I think he earned it.”

FREE THROWS: Donovan said the Gators played three 20-minute periods in Saturday's informal scrimmage with Rollins. “Our guys shared the ball, I thought we did some good things,” Donovan said. “Like anything else, there was some sloppiness, some carelessness with turnovers and things like that, but overall I think our guys did a pretty good job.” … The 6-foot-4 Frazier said he is playing both the small forward and shooting guard spots in practice. “I have the ability to rebound, so coach has put me in at both spots,” Frazier said. … Florida will have three former McDonald's All-Americans in its starting lineup against Nebraska-Kearney — Rosario, Boynton and Young. … Donovan said he would welcome back Cody Larson if he changed his mind and decided to return to the team. Florida announced Friday the 6-foot-9 Larson has left the basketball team to focus on academics the rest of the semester. “If there's anyone who knows about changing his mind, it's me,” said Donovan, who left the Orlando Magic after a six-day tenure in 2007 to return to UF. “I think right now for Cody, if he legitimately felt like, you know what, a week, two weeks from now, I miss this, I made a huge mistake, we're not bringing anyone in right now, he could come back to our team.”

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