SALT LAKE CITY — The news release had Matt Carlino’s fingerprints all over it. A talented but enigmatic component to BYU’s basketball team, he had again taken the situation into his own hands.
Indecision was never in the makeup of Jimmer Fredette’s successor.
For the third time, he’s in search of a place to star.
A good college player, with potential to break down defenses, Carlino had a tendency to break down his own team, too. Whether BYU will be better without him is debatable. One thing seems certain: the Cougars will surely be more predictable.
The guard announced Tuesday afternoon that he is transferring to parts unknown. But parts unknown could also describe where his game wandered. Carlino’s circuitous career has taken him to some fairly high places, yet nobody ever seemed to know where he’d land. There were times when he was driving the lane and sinking 3s and taking the Cougars from good to excellent in a matter moments. But soon he was launching up quick-possession shots or just plain missing.
Mainly, he was a victim of something he could never avoid: comparisons to Jimmer.
Now he’s presumably leaving to spend his senior season where he can be the man. That wasn’t going to happen as long as Tyler Haws was at BYU. One is an honorable mention All-America; the other has caused BYU fans more aggravation than liberalism and “Big Love” combined.
BYU coach Dave Rose and Carlino didn’t part on bad terms, at least if you go by the statements. But Carlino wanted a place to soar. That’s why anyone transfers. In the BYU system, structure is everything and his game was seldom structured. Although the Cougars of 2013-14 could run, they relied heavily on the whens and whys of doing so. Their NCAA tournament loss to Oregon underscored worries of being overmatched and undermanned, despite taking the Ducks into overtime earlier in the season. Hurt by the loss of guard Kyle Collinsworth, they needed to contain Oregon and control the tempo.
With Oregon extending its lead early in the second half, the Cougars suddenly revived. Carlino dished to Frank Bartley IV to close a 10-point lead to seven. He then made two 3s within a minute, reducing Oregon’s lead to three with 12:03 to go.
But Carlino missed a jumper, a 3-pointer and two more jumpers as the minutes ticked off. Soon the deficit was 20. Carlino’s impatience was showing.
Beyond that, it was clear Rose wanted the Cougars to rise or fall with Haws.
Carlino had his moments this year. A transfer from UCLA, he certainly draws attention. He is a decent outside shooter and sometimes effective attacking player. Against Portland he was spectacular, going 11-for-16 from the field, including eight 3-pointers.
Other times he played out of control, taking quick shots, forcing others, and looking like a man who hoped to be Jimmer squared. Thirteen times he made less than 30 percent of his shots. He was 14-51 from the field in the postseason.
Carlino and BYU both took the high road in making the announcement. He expressed gratitude for his three years at BYU, calling it “a great experience” and saying coaches and teams helped him grow.
“I feel very blessed that I was able to represent BYU,” he said.
He graduates with a bachelor’s degree in June, a nice accomplishment. But he couldn’t be the player fans hoped he would be, or even the player he thought he should be. At least not at BYU.
The news clearly caused a wave of relief among some Cougar fans, many of whom took to social media to chime in. There’s a reason for that. When things got tight, they just never knew if he’d land the deciding shot or blow the whole thing into space. He was never afraid to take the big shot. Problem was, it wasn’t always his to take.
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