BYU’s sophomore guard Matt Carlino steps up in the spotlight as he makes a turnaround in the WCC games this season.
Before conference games started, Carlino was averaging 7.2 points and 3.8 assists per game but has spiked to 15.4 points and 5.1 assists since the first conference game against Loyola Marymount on Jan. 3.
He was named the WCC Player of the Week (Jan. 31- Feb. 2), making it the fourth time BYU has had a player honored this season. In his player of the week performance, Carlino averaged 20 points, five assists and 2.5 steals per game. He was also a runner-up in being named January’s WCC Player of the Month.
Carlino finished with 28 points (10–17 FG, 3–6 3FG, 5–5 FT), six assists and two steals against Santa Clara on Feb. 2 for arguably his best game of the season.
“Our coaches have spent so much time with Matt, just helping him with our offense and with our players,” BYU coach Dave Rose said following Carlino’s great week. “He’s become a lot more comfortable with taking opportunities that are provided for him instead of trying to force things. The last couple weeks he’s been terrific. His decision-making has been good and he shot the ball well, and when he shoots the ball well, he has a whole different mindset as far as his confidence is concerned.”
Since Carlino made his entrance to BYU, after transferring from UCLA in the middle of his freshman year, Rose emphasized Carlino’s development as “a process.” Consistency and efficiency was something that came from experience, and Carlino needed time to improve his game.
“Matt is actually showing progress with the experience, and that’s really important,” Rose said. “It’s a really tough assignment to come in and be the starting point guard as a freshman in a program that has pretty high expectations and has been pretty successful. He’s handled it really well. … He’s in a nice little spot, and I think our guys have learned to actually play with him and appreciate what he does.”
Once Carlino steps onto the court, he doesn’t fear who he’s guarded by and is never afraid to take the next big shot. The pressure doesn’t faze him and only makes him play harder each night. His struggles earlier in the season were something to brush off because what people saw wasn’t really him.
“I just think I was playing dumb,” Carlino said. “I wasn’t playing like myself. I was trying to do stuff that wasn’t comfortable for me. I’ve still taken some of it to what I’m doing now, but it was just a learning experience. I was playing bad — I don’t think we were playing that well in the season as a whole.”
Now that he’s playing more consistently, Carlino is happy with the Cougars’ chances of winning. Knowing his team can go into each game thinking they will come out with a victory is what he likes the most about his personal play.
“I think a lot of times it’s been a good correlation; when I’ve played well, we’ve won,” Carlino said. “That’s a good feeling to have when you know if you go out and play well, it’s a good chance your team is going to win.”
Fans have been discouraging Carlino from shaving his head again because of the way he has been performing after letting his hair grow out. Since growing out his hair, Carlino has only been getting better and was asked whether the positive relationship had something to do with his turnaround.
“I have been playing better, so maybe,” Carlino joked.
Although he has a ways to go before reaching his peak, Carlino continues to work his way up and watches film on other college and NBA players rather than watching himself. He said he has already picked up a variety of things in a conference full of great offensive and defensive players.
As BYU continues to improve its chances of making the NCAA tournament with the last several games, Carlino may be the key to getting there alongside teammates Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies. When Carlino gets going, there’s nothing that can deter his confidence. Haws knows Carlino found his role on the team as an effective and influential player with his performances in conference games.
“Matt’s a guy that can make guys better,” Haws said. “When he’s playing fast and pushing the ball up the floor, he finds Brandon on the break, finds me on the break. He makes guys better, and I think that’s what he’s figured out lately.”