Men's Basketball

EKU counts on Rose to rise even higher

When hired by Eastern Kentucky for his first job as a head coach, Jeff Neubauer didn't need to see one of his top prospects.

He was already acquainted with Mike Rose. The pair will begin their fourth season together when the Colonels visit Florida International at 8 p.m. Friday.

"I saw Mike in the fall of his senior year at Naperville (Ill.)," Neubauer recalled. "When I got this job, he was still available. I was very surprised. I knew how talented he was. It was a no-brainer for our program. The only thing was to get him to visit."

Neubauer had started recruiting Rose for West Virginia when he was an assistant on Coach John Beilein's staff. But with Beilein heading for Michigan, Neubauer landed his new job with Eastern.

"There was no question Mike was the type of player and student we wanted," Neubauer said. "He's a considerate, respectful young man."

Rose also has become a regular member of the All-Ohio Valley Conference team, making the second team as a sophomore, the first team as a junior and the pre-season All-OVC list as a senior.

"I tell our team it's no accident Mike Rose was All-OVC," Neubauer said. "He worked harder and stayed longer after practice to work on his game."

Rose realizes that time is running out on his college career.

"I'm trying to take it all in, trying to cherish every moment," he said. "The years have gone fast."

Rose recalled enjoying his freshman year. He averaged 6.2 points, starting 16 of 30 games.

"I wish we'd finished better," he said of the 16-14 Colonels. "We started off real good."

As a sophomore, he was the OVC Tournament MVP and averaged 15.1 points, sixth in the league. He was third in three-point shooting with 39.8 percent and made the All-OVC second team.

"I picked up and took off," Rose said. "I was confident, and our team was jelling. The point guards were finding me, so I made sure I got better on my end."

Eastern (21-12) gave North Carolina a test in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, losing 86-65. UNC Coach Roy Williams said, "They kicked us for about 12 to 14 minutes there, and we were on our heels offensively. ... We could not stop them defensively."

Rose moved up to first team as a junior, averaging 15.3 points, 16.7 in OVC games. His three-point shooting dropped to 34.3 percent.

"It didn't end the way we wanted," said Rose of the Colonels' first-round OVC tourney defeat and 14-16 record. "We had a lot of ups and downs. Little things slipped up and hurt us in the long run."

"We put Mike in a role last year that was a little unfair," Neubauer said. "There was so much offensive stress on his shoulders."

The "stress" Rose will feel this season will be on improving his defensive game.

"I wasn't bad on defense," Rose said, "but I could've done better."

"This year, Mike is much better defensively," Neubauer said. "It comes with being a senior and having a certain sense of urgency about you.

"Plus, he's heard from us for three years about how important defense is. He has the athleticism and quickness to be a good defender.

"Now he's practicing at the right pace and urgency. He's showing up as a very good defender."