Senior guard Mike Rosario understood why he sat most of the final 12 minutes of the second half in Florida’s 64-52 comeback win over Alabama.
“I wasn’t playing the way my team needed me to play,” Rosario said. “I wasn’t playing what coach would say is the right way. Sometimes you’ve got to look at it as it not being about an individual. It’s about the team. That game, I wasn’t playing the right way, so I had to give our team what we needed.”
That included a pass into press row early in the second half that Florida coach Billy Donovan compared to a fastball from Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. After that, Rosario was given a quick hook from Donovan following a wild baseline drive that resulted in no points.
From star scorer, though, the 6-foot-3 Rosario transformed to star cheerleader off the bench. He didn’t pout. Instead, he acted as another coach, pointing out weaknesses in Alabama’s defense.
“Everyone was asking, ‘why does coach have you on the bench in the second half?’,” Rosario said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the team. I felt that with me being on the bench, I still have a lot of things to say and things to do from the bench, as far as me telling those guys to clap for our guys. It’s a part of the process. The process was, we’ve got to win this game.”
Donovan noticed Rosario’s contributions while he was on the bench.
“He was absolutely phenomenal on the bench,” Donovan said, “He was great. He was up cheering, he was talking, he was trying to encourage guys. He was fine.”
Rosario admitted a couple of years ago he “probably wouldn’t have handled it the same way.” It’s been part of the maturation of the Jersey City, N.J., playground prodigy. Rosario had scored in double figures in nine straight games before his six-point, three-turnover day against Alabama. But on a day when Rosario struggled with his scoring and decision-making, he found another way to contribute.
“I’ve really got a lot of respect for Mike in that part of it,” Donovan said. “I think winning is important to him. He wasn’t playing well, we moved Casey (Prather) over to the small forward spot, it just happened to work out well for us. I can’t sit there and say it was going to happen or I knew it was going to happen. Casey stepped up and played well when he needed to. Mike, provided Monday and Tuesday here he works hard and has a good attitude, he’s going to start against Vanderbilt.”
Prather has averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds off the bench over the last seven games and provided a size boost inside rebounding against Alabama’s physical front.
“I’m proud of Casey because Casey has been through some ups and downs, too,” Rosario said. “For him to go out there and perform the way he did when we needed him to perform, it really meant a lot to me.”