Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Rosario, Fontan Head to New Zealand; Jio Looking at JUCO
Mike Rosario and Jio Fontan leave for New Zealand on Wednesday for the FIBA U19 World Championship slated for July 2-12.
And don’t be surprised if they sleep with a basketball once they get there.
You see, the duo — who are playing for Puerto Rico in the event — slept with a FIBA basketball during training in Puerto Rico in order to get used to the smaller, lighter international ball.
“We both started to sleep with them at night,” Fontan, who played last year at Fordham, said by phone from Puerto Rico. “We slept with it for a week and we didn’t even use it. And then we used a different ball.”
After training and sleeping with the FIBA ball, they played with a larger, heavier adidas ball at the World Juniors Tournament in France.
Rosario, a 6-foot-3 freshman guard from Jersey City, didn’t have any trouble with the new ball.
He dropped 33 points on an American team in the first game and was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 20.4 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 29-of-37 from the free throw line.
“The first game, Mike was on fire. He pretty much made all his shots. You can tell Mike went to an adidas school because he was knocking shots down,” said Fontan, who played with Rosario at St. Anthony under Bob Hurley. “He was comfortable with that ball right away.”
Todd Washington, an adviser to the Puerto Rican National team, said Rosario actually struggled with the FIBA ball early during training in Puerto Rico.
“Mike’s first couple of practices were a nightmare,” Washington said. “He literally didn’t make a shot. For three days straight the kid couldn’t make a shot. He was shooting 3’s from the corner and hitting the side of the basket. It didn’t have anything to do with his confidence, it was the FIBA basketball.
“We were in practice and you could hear all the whispers going around that Mike wasn’t that good. It was kind of funny because I knew it was a matter of time before he came correct.”
Turns out he came correct with the adidas ball.
Fontan said Rosario’s game is also developing.
“He really impressed me coming off the ball screen and making passes of the ball screen,” Fontan said. “A lot of teams didn’t want him to catch and shoot. This summer he really showed how to pick up and make certain passes off the ball screen which is going to help him a lot more.”
Once Rosario got hot, it opened things up for Fontan, who dropped 25 points in a loss to France.
Fontan still hopes to get his release from Fordham University and end up elsewhere but he isn’t optimistic.
“I’m not 100 percent what I’m going to do,” he said. “Right now Fordham still has the power to release me but at this point I’m not really considering that as an option.
“Hopefully soon I’ll know what I’m going to do. I wanted to know before New Zealand but it doesn’t look like I’ll have a definite answer.”
Fontan said he’s received offers to play professionally in the Caribbean and Europe, but is considering attending a junior college in the states next year. He said he probably won’t play ball there though.
“I’m probably going to go to school back in the states,” he said. “I don’t know exactly which junior college.”
After New Zealand, Fontan will return to New Jersey for a couple of weeks and then come back to Puerto Rico to try out for the Senior Men’s National team, which has an event at the end of the summer.
Rosario may also try out, assuming he gets permission from Rutgers.
“Hopefully I’ll have a chance to stay out here and play for the National Team,” Rosario said before the Puerto Rico tournament.
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(Photos courtesy Rutgers, Fordham, Hall of Fame)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.