Provo • Matt Carlino used the word excited, or a form of that word, no fewer than eight times during a three-minute interview on Thursday afternoon.
Somewhere along the way, BYU's transfer from UCLA acknowledged he has a few jitters, a few butterflies in his stomach, as he prepares to make his college basketball debut on Saturday when the Cougars play host to No. 6 Baylor at the Marriott Center (noon, BYUtv).
Carlino, who had to sit out the last year due to NCAA transfer rules, becomes eligible at the end of fall semester, which just happens to coincide with one of the Cougars' biggest nonconference games in years. Coach Dave Rose said the 6-foot-2 point guard won't start against the Bears that will be either Craig Cusick or Anson Winder but will get some playing time.
"Getting comfortable, just going out there, maybe get the jitters out a little bit," Carlino said, when asked what his greatest task will be Saturday. "It is going to be different. I haven't played in a little while, but it is just going to be fun. I am really excited."
Certainly, the Cougars (8-2) have been grooming Carlino since halfway through last season to ease into Jimmer Fredette's old role, but those preparations were amped up the last three weeks, Rose said, as Carlino's practice situation was altered.
"The last two or three weeks, the majority of reps that he has [received] has been with our team, running our stuff," Rose said. "Before that, he was here as a practice player, running everybody else's stuff. We like what he does, we like what he brings, and we will see how he adjusts, how quickly he adjusts."
It would be difficult to find a more ballyhooed in-season debut in BYU basketball history. Because he was once part of UCLA's program a concussion kept him from playing for the Bruins at the start of his career and because BYU beat out the likes of UNLV, Butler and St. Mary's for his services, expectations for Carlino are sky-high.
Will he be as good as advertised?
"Come to the game. Or turn the TV on," Rose replied. "One of the two."
We will take that as a yes.
Said center Brandon Davies: "Matt brings a lot. You know, it is hard to say one specific thing. I think he is going to come in there and give us a big lift. He is comfortable with us. ... It is nice for him to be able to perform on the court, finally."
Carlino is well aware of the buzz his transfer created in Provo, but claims he isn't feeling the weight of all those expectations among a fanbase eager to find and attach itself to the next Jimmer.
"I have just been waiting and waiting and waiting, so no [pressure to live up to expectations]," he said. "It is just on me to get out there and play. I am just excited to play. I am not worried about any of that other stuff."
Rose said he is "really comfortable" with the way Winder and Cusick have handled the point guard duties since the twosome took over for the 6-foot-6 Brock Zylstra after the BYU-Hawaii game. But he's just as interested to see what Carlino can do as anybody else.
"The most important thing is trying to get used to just how [he] plays, how he plays on the floor how the other guys play with him. It is not the most ideal situation, to add a player 10 games in," Rose said. "But we have felt like the opportunity to get Matt, and have him with us for three and a half years was worth this adjustment period that we are going to go through right here."
College basketball Saturday
No. 6 Baylor at BYU
At the Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • noon
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 8-2, Baylor 8-0
Series history • BYU leads, 5-2
Last meeting • BYU 100, Baylor 58 (Dec. 1, 1979)
About the Cougars • Senior Noah Hartsock is their leading scorer, averaging 17.3 points per game. ... Fourth-leading scorer Stephen Rogers (9.9 ppg.) will miss the game with a knee injury. ... Freshman guard Matt Carlino, a transfer from UCLA, will make his BYU debut against Baylor. ... They are playing host to a top-10 team for the fourth-straight season.
About the Bears • Perry Jones III, who missed the first five games due to an NCAA-mandated suspension, is averaging 15.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. ... They are No. 6 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 7 in the USA/Today ESPN Coaches Poll. ... They are averaging 77 points per game, the same as BYU. ... They are averaging 15.6 turnovers a game.