Good thing March Madness is over — time to usher in a little normalcy to the BYU sports world. Think again.
Head coach Dave Rose announced April 1 that junior guard Matt Carlino decided to take his talents elsewhere for his final season of eligibility on the hardwood, shocking the BYU sports community in the wake of the Cougars’ loss to Oregon in the NCAA tournament.
“We’re really grateful for Matt’s contribution to the success of our program over the last three years,” Rose said. “We wish Matt and his family the very best in their future endeavors. Matt was a great teammate and will be missed by the coaching staff and players.”
Carlino’s ability to spread the floor and contribute on the offensive and defensive side of the ball will be missed; had he stayed, he would have been part a unique opportunity to play with a large group of seniors to finish off his collegiate career. That being said, the future of BYU basketball is in the capable hands of Rose, who feels the urgency surrounding his group of six seniors next season will motivate the team to be healthy and competitive next year.
With the addition of junior guard Chase Fischer, a transfer from Wake Forest who sat out last season per NCAA transfer regulations; freshman forward Jamal Aytes, a transfer from UNLV; and Issac Neilson, a 6-foot-10-inch freshman center, the Cougars hope to fill big man Erik Mika’s role down low while he serves his mission in Rome, and fill Carlino’s shoes as a scorer.
“We’ve proven over the nine seasons that guys are going to leave and other guys come in, and for the most part they have been able to find a way to stay together and keep the team first,” Rose said. “Some groups it works a little easier than others, but I think the experience with this team that’s coming back and the guys that we have coming in will have a great impact.”
There will certainly be no shortage of competition for a starting position next year. Tyler Haws, who averaged 23.2 points per game as a junior and was named the WCC Player of the Year, is a lock at shooting guard. Nate Austin started in 35 games and should continue to be a presence down low, maintaining 26-28 minutes a game. Kyle Collinsworth’s rehab off a torn ACL shouldn’t be a concern at the beginning of next season and should start at the point.
But that leaves two positions open, possibly for Jordan Chatman, a returned missionary freshman, who can play the one, two or three position, and Fischer.
“When you look on paper at the depth of our guard line, it’s probably as good as it has been in a long time,” Rose said. “With Anson (Winder), Tyler (Haws), Kyle (Collinsworth) and Chase (Fischer) — these are all guys that have a lot of college playing experience. Jordan Chatman is a guy who is really talented and has great size and can play all three positions down low. Skyler Halford is a guy who started 13 or 14 games for us and gave us great minutes. I’m really, really confident that we’re going to find a solid group of guards that are going to be consistent for us.”
There will be plenty of veterans vying for final spots in the roster, and Rose is more than happy to welcome it.
“You look at the roster and the guys that have played and the starts that they have accumulated over their careers, there’s going to be some guys that started a lot of games that will be asked to play in different roles,” Rose said. “There’s just a lot of experience on this team, and that’s exciting.”
The Cougars, finishing the season in second place in both the regular season and the conference tournament last year, are finally finding themselves close to the top of a tough conference but have plans to evaluate consistency with games being scheduled away from Provo back-to-back becoming a real concern for the teams’ performance on and off the court.
“We’ll spend a lot of time with different models that we have, like our traveling models,” Rose said. “We know that most of these games will be back-to-back road games with our travel partners, so we’ll have to make some real adjustments — what we feel is really important and how we handle those days off and in between.
“We will spend a lot of time on those things as a staff. What we’ll spend on our players this summer as a staff will be trying to improve each one of them individually to the areas that they felt they need and we as a staff feel they need as far as their body’s concerned — get guys stronger, quicker and faster. What we’ll really play to is their individual strength and try and improve their individual game, each one of them.”
While Rose said they will continue to run a fast-paced offense, they will look at changing up how they approach teams while also looking at defensive strategy with the depth present on the roster.
Disappointments, such as the unlikely injury to Collinsworth or the unfortunate loss in the second round of the NCAA tournament, are a part of any sport, but the upside to it all has no ceiling, and Rose is more than excited about another hardworking off season in preparation for another year.
“I think the depth and talent level will be terrific,” Rose said. “I’m looking forward to it.”