Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mike Rosario- The New Face of Rutgers Basketball

Mike Rosario, a 6'3 senior guard from St. Anthony's (NJ), will take his game to Rutgers next year. As soon as the McDonald's All-American steps foot on the RU campus, he will be a celebrity. That's part of the territory when you go to a school as one of its most highly touted recruits ever. Rosario is well equipped to handle the pressure, having played his high school ball in the Garden State, and competing for state and national titles with Bob Hurley's powerhouse program. In fact, the Friars were seemingly the unanimous choice as national champion and number one overall ranked team this past season, finishing the year with an unblemished record. I spoke with the superstar at the Playaz Spring Fling, which was not only run by his former AAU program, but took place at the RAC, Rosario's future stage to showcase his skills.

NB: What was it like for you to get selected to [play in] the McDonald’s All-American Game?
MR: It was great because it was like a dream come true. . . . It was something that I wanted to accomplish. . . . [When I was young and I was] looking at that on TV, . . . [I] was just trying to picture myself there, but I couldn’t because there [were] so many other great players in the country, so I thought I didn’t have [any] shot at making it, but once . . . I found out, it was great, it was . . . like a dream come true, and it just was great.

NB: What was it like to get the win and to play so well?
MR: It was great because . . . I knew I was going to come out and play well because my family was there, and it just was like the adrenaline was pumping through my body. When I knew I was selected, I wanted to go there and play against the best, and I had chance to do that, so I knew that I was going to have a great game, but what it felt like after that, it felt good because now all the people in the nation saw how good I am and how [well] I [can] play . . . with the rest that’s up there, so that was the experience.

NB: What went into your decision to commit to Rutgers and sign there?
MR: What made me come to Rutgers was just because I’m a loyal person to New Jersey and just because my mom [is] here, . . . and I want her to come see me play, [as well as] . . . the people that have been in my corner in New Jersey forever, . . . and they [are] going to have the opportunity to come see me too, so that why I really chose Rutgers.

NB: Why Rutgers over Seton Hall or some other schools in [New] Jersey?
MR: I just felt more comfortable at Rutgers. I felt like Rutgers was the school for me, that’s why I chose this school over Seton Hall.

NB: What’s it like being here now seeing all this AAU action going on in your . . . future school?
MR: It’s great to see all this talent in here right now, to see my young boys from the Playaz, especially Dominic Cheek, Lance Brown, and all those guys, [Tamir] “Pop” Jackson, just [to] see all those guys play [and] know that I can just come and watch them now and support them, because I can’t play no more, I’m about to get ready for college.

NB: With the season that St. Anthony’s had this year, what was your favorite part?
MR: My favorite part about the season was just to win the TOC [Tournament of Champions] this year and just be a part of St. Anthony’s history. That was basically it, and just, we just accomplished out goal our last year there, so that was a great experience.

NB: For the team, what do you think was the main role that you played on the squad this year?
MR: [My] main role was just [to] come out with a lot of energy every game, get my teammates going and just do whatever I could do to get my team to win. That was about it, that was my role really, just to come off . . . the game from the beginning with a lot of energy, get my teammates pumped up and just get them going.

NB: Coming into the season, did [the team] think there was a chance that you’d be going undefeated and being number one in the country?
MR: Yeah, yeah, we actually knew that, we actually knew that it could be a possibility of just happening . . . along as we kept or focus and kept our composure and [had] everybody on the same page, that was just basically the only thing we had to worry about, and that’s what we did. We had all our seniors step up and be leaders, and then . . . the juniors . . . on the team [had] to come out and be the same.

NB: How do you think the team is going to replace all you guys that are graduating?
MR: They [are] not going to have the same exact talent as us because we had so much talent on our team, but they still [are] going to replace us just by playing defense, . . . and just working hard everyday in practice, but as [for] talent-wise and athletic-wise and everything like that, I don’t know.

NB: What was the best moment of your high school career?
MR: The best moment of my high school was, actually, playing here in the RAC, playing here in the RAC and having the opportunity to score 30 [points] and get MVP, and just help my team win that game that I had here and just experience those games that I had here in the RAC as well, that was good too.

NB: Was that at the Prime Time Shootout? Is that what you were talking about?
MR: Yeah, the Prime Time Shootout.

NB: This year?
MR: Yeah.

NB: What do you think [is] the main way you can contribute to Rutgers next season?
MR: [The] main thing I can contribute to Rutgers is hard work, dedication, just [giving] my best at every time in the game, and just bring excitement to the team, and . . . try to get everybody going everyday.

NB: Do you have any goals for your college career?
MR: Just try to break a lot of records . . . and try to beat the scoring record . . . and try to take them to the NCAA . . . Tournament, try to take them to the NIT, whatever one.

NB: Do you feel there’s any extra pressure on you [considering that you are] coming from New Jersey and being the [caliber of a] player that you are and attending Rutgers?
MR: Yeah, there’s a lot of pressure on me because I’m selected as a McDonald’s All-American and now there’s a lot on my shoulders, and now I have a lot of people talking about me coming here and being . . . part of this in here [at the RAC], so it’s going to be a lot, it’s going to be a lot on my shoulders next year. I’m just going to have to ride out with it and show people that I can do it.

NB: What do you think [is] the biggest thing the team has the capability of accomplishing in your four years there?
MR: Of course we [are] going to get better, because I’m going to make them better, and plus, we [are] going to have a lot of kids that [are] coming to Rutgers that’s going to make it better, so basically we [are] going to improve by just getting better as a team, and we [are] going to start winning game a lot, so that’s the main thing that’s going to happen.

NB: Did you have any impact on [Greg] Echenique committing to Rutgers, or were you not even talking to him about that?
MR: Oh yeah, I was . . . talking to him . . . like two days a week . . . to try to get him to come [to Rutgers] with me, and he finally made the decision, so I got me a big guy coming with me, so it’s great.

NB: Who do you see as the next great player coming out from New Jersey?
MR: Dominic Cheek. [He is] 6’6, [he can] do everything, he’s going to be a McDonald’s All-American, he’s top 10 in the country, he’s . . . a big shooting guard, and he’s long [and] athletic, so that’s who I see as the best player in New Jersey coming out next year.

NB: Finally, what current player in the NBA or college do you think your game is very similar to?
MR: Ray Allen, Ray Allen. That’s one person that I compare my game to a lot, and just because I just got to get my release faster and that one-dribble-pull-up, and that’s about it.

Mike Rosario will enter Rutgers with the whole program leaning on his back, hoping he is the savior the school has been trying to find for quite some time now. Although he may have some growing pains, Rosario should have a big impact on the Scarlet Knights his freshman season. Fred Hill and his staff did a great job of getting Rosario to stay in-state, and now it's up to him to fulfil his potential. If he does, the Big East had better watch out, because come 2009-2010, Mike Rosario, Greg Echenique, and Austin Johnson--three in-sate players--will be a lot to handle. This is going to be Rosario's world in Piscataway the next four years, and everybody else will just be living in. After, he is the face of Rutgers basketball . . . and the hope for a bright future.

Note- photo is of Mike Rosario at the RAC with his MVP trophy from the 2008 Prime Time Shootout, and is from

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