PROVO — Matt Carlino couldn't have picked a bigger game in which to make his BYU debut.
As fate would have it, the Cougar point guard will play his first college contest Saturday (noon MT, BYUtv) against No. 6 ranked, unbeaten Baylor at the Marriott Center.
"Not a lot of people get to play against that caliber of team in their first game," said Carlino, who transferred from UCLA last December and has had to sit out, due to NCAA transfer rules, until the end of fall semester.
As for his role, Carlino said he wants to be a "good teammate" and bring "positive energy. I'm just excited to play and be a part of it on the floor."
Forward Noah Hartsock is eager to play with Carlino.
"That's pretty awesome for us. He's really excited," Hartsock said. "He's a great player. He can really get up and down the court. It's going to take some time for him to get into the system.
"It's a tough game, especially against the sixth-ranked team in the nation as his first game. But he's a good player and he's going to make some good contributions for us this year. He's been really patient and he's worked hard. He's done a great job preparing and keeping himself in shape for this season."
Carlino has spent the past year practicing with the Cougars, and itching to take the floor.
"I'm just really excited to play and excited to play against a good team," said the 6-foot-2, 175-pound freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz. "I'm really ready. I've been ready for a while … It was tougher to sit on the bench this year (compared to last season) because I knew I was going to play this year. The fact that I had to sit there, it was tough. But our team's been playing really well, so that made it easier."
Coach Dave Rose said that while Carlino won't start Saturday, he will see playing time. Rose added that he doesn't know if Anson Winder or Craig Cusick will get the starting nod at point guard against the Bears.
"I'm really comfortable with both of those guys at the point guard position," he said. "The last two days of practice, they've both practiced well. We have some good depth at that spot … We'll get (Carlino) in. He'll get minutes. We'll see how he plays and go from there, like the majority of our players. We've got a really deep team. Hopefully we can get a lot of good play out of our whole roster."
While Carlino has yet to play a college game, he was a star in high school. He led Highland (Ariz.) High to a 29-4 record and a trip to the state championship game — averaging 19.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game — as a sophomore. Carlino was named the East Valley player of the year and he scored 30-plus points six times.
Carlino then moved to Bloomington, Ind., where he guided Bloomington South High to a 23-1 record as a junior. He averaged 13.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Bloomington was ranked No. 1 for much of the season and advanced to the 4A State Regional Finals. Carlino graduated after his junior season and enrolled at UCLA.
But Carlino never played at UCLA due to a concussion early last season. Then he announced his plans to transfer — visiting BYU, UNLV, San Diego, Saint Mary's and Butler before opting to join the Cougars.
Carlino, who is not a member of the LDS Church, paid his own way through school last year before receiving a scholarship this season.
"I like how he practices," Rose said. "The last two or three weeks, the majority of the reps that he's gotten have been with our team, running our stuff. Before that, he was here as a practice player, running everybody else's stuff.
"We like what he does, we like what he brings. We'll see how he how quickly he can adjust. He's never played a Division I college game. This will be an experience for him. Hopefully he adjusts as soon as possible. But every player is different."
Rose knows that Carlino, and his team, is about to go through a transition process.
"The most important thing is trying to get used to how you play and how the guys play with him," Rose said. "It's not the most ideal situation to add a player 10 games in. But we felt like the opportunity to get Matt and have him here for 31/2 years with us was worth this adjustment period that we're going to go through right here."
Carlino likes, and feels comfortable with, the Cougars' up-tempo style and he knew when he transferred to BYU that he would be able to help fill the void left by Jimmer Fredette, the consensus national player of the year.
Carlino arrived at BYU with plenty of hype, but he said he's not worried about such things. He simply wants to play basketball.
His biggest challenge right now?
"Getting comfortable, just going out there," Carlino said. "Maybe get the jitters out a little bit. It's going to be different. I haven't played in a little while. It's going to be fun."
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company