More on BYU's Yankee-loving Matt Carlino
The BYU basketball team is back in action tonight, taking on Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles at 7 p.m. MST (6 p.m. in California, if you are going to the game). The Cougars are 10-point favorites, but coach Dave Rose said getting BYU's first road win in the WCC won't be easy. The Lions have lots of firepower on offense. "We have to focus on our defensive assignments, continue to improve defensively," Rose said Tuesday. My offering in today's Tribune is a feature story on BYU redshirt freshman guard Matt Carlino. Had a good interview with Carlino, who seems to be opening up a bit more with each interview after being quiet and guarded when he arrived in Provo a year ago. If you've read the story, you might be wondering why I interviewed Carlino's 16-year-old brother, Jack, for the story. I asked Matt if I could call the one person in the world who knows him best, and he provided Jack's cell phone number. From talking to Jack, I could tell that It's a cool relationship kind of like Jimmer Fredette's relationship with his older brother, T.J., except in reverse. Jack Carlino is his big brother's biggest fan and confidante. And no, Jack Carlino doesn't play high school basketball. - BYU fans might not realize that Carlino could have been playing high school basketball last year, instead of attending UCLA and then transferring to BYU and watching the Cougars' run to the Sweet 16 on the sidelines. He graduated from Indiana's Bloomington South High after his junior year."I was told at UCLA that I would come in and play the point guard right away, and that they had an immediate need for me there. That seemed like a great opportunity for me. Obviously, that didn't work out. ... I hurried up my classes [in Indiana] to graduate," Carlino said."I am grateful that I did, now, because that year that I spent playing college basketball against all these great players [such as Jimmer] in practice has helped me so much, for this year. Because I know if I had come in this year without having the practice time and experience I picked up last year, I wouldn't have had the so-called success that I have had early." Yes, Carlino referred to his success as "so-called success" on his own. Interesting choice of words. Said coach Dave Rose: "He's really young, yeah. He graduated a year early. Last year, while he was sitting here watching us, could have been his senior year in high school, so I am sure glad he was here, because I think it really helped him, and he has really helped us." Regarding Carlino's playmaking ability, and what he brings to the team, Rose said: "Well, I think that he is learning. He needs experience. I think we talked about the minutes on the floor for him are not only crucial for him to experience that, but being able to get in the film room and show him how we play, and our penetration rules and where guys are going to be, and when you get in this situation, and it is a little bit difficult, there is going to be a guy here, or there, and the more comfortable he feels, I think those numbers will increase." I asked Carlino what makes him tick off the court, what his passions are. Three words, he said: "New York Yankees." Carlino is such a huge Yankees fan that he claims to catch every pitch of every Yankee game, either live, in person, or by recording device. "I am a huge Yankees fan. That is what I mainly do with my family and stuff. We just watch the Yankees and critique every pitch," he said. Carlino said he's a Yankees fan because "my papa, he was born in New Jersey and he's been a Yankees fan his whole life. He passed it onto my dad, and then on to me and my brother." Yes, he referred to his grandfather as "papa." Got to love that. For Christmas, Carlino received a chair seat from the old Yankee Stadium that his aunt somehow acquired. "It's pretty sweet," he said. A few more comments from my 10-minute chat with Carlino:On his own assessment regarding where he's at six games into his playing career: "A little up and down. I have felt good. I mean, it has been really fun to play. I just got to get used to playing. I mean, we are getting better as a team. So it has been fun. But I am just focused on trying to get better. I think I have been doing that. It has been mentally a little different for me, just having to focus on different stuff in the game to just make myself better. Talking to the coaches and stuff has helped me. But overall, it has just been fun." On what has been the toughest thing about Division I basketball: "Just that every time you are on the court, being able to be locked in 100 percent. Because if you are not, bad things happen. It is about being mentally prepared for anything to happen, because other guys are always thinking and just trying to get one step ahead. Because playing point guard at the Division I level as a freshman, you have to be a floor general out there. Without having that much experience, I have to learn a lot on the fly. But it has just been fun, though, overall."On whether he is surprised at how successful he's been: "I don't think I have come close to playing the way I should be playing. I have had some spurts where I have played well, but overall, not great. I mean, those numbers are pretty good, but it is not the peak. It is not like I have reached my potential for this year. I just want to continue to get better." On his experience off the court at BYU so far: "I mean, good. I mostly just hang out with the team, anyway. It is not that different for me. It has felt more right than a lot of other places, just because of the relaxed atmosphere around here. It is not like ASU, the No. 1 party school in the nation, and stuff like that. So it has been fun. It is a good school. It is fun. The fans are great around here, so that's also been fun to see." On whether he's recognized in the community: "Yeah, a little bit. It is not like I am 6-10 and stand above the crowd. But sometimes they recognize me. That's always fun."