PROVO — He might not officially suit up for another year, but freshman transfer guard Matt Carlino is already helping the BYU Cougars become a better basketball team.
Carlino, who transferred from UCLA earlier this month and committed to BYU last week, practiced with the Cougars for the first time on Monday after officially being accepted as a student at the university.
"This will be great for this team to have Matt practicing against them every day . . . I really like the attitude that he has and the aggressive nature that he has," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
Carlino also moved into student housing in Provo on Monday and will begin attending classes at BYU this coming semester. Until he's under scholarship next season he'll be paying his own tuition.
"He was really excited to get here and get started," said Rose, who was finally able to comment on his latest recruit once he began practicing.
However, the highly-touted 6-foot-2 175-pound point guard who prepped in Arizona and Indiana before enrolling at UCLA after graduating from high school after his junior year, won't be eligible to play for the Cougars until mid-December next season.
"I'm not going to be able to play in games, but I know I'll be working really hard here," Carlino said after Monday's practice. "Just being able to practice against this team every day and everything here is going to benefit me."
Carlino never saw any action at UCLA because of a concussion that sidelined him for two weeks. Then, after announcing plans to transfer, he spent two weeks on recruiting visits — which included BYU, San Diego, Saint Mary's, Butler and UNLV.
"It just wasn't a good fit. I just thought it was time to go a different direction," Carlino said of his decision to leave the Bruins.
He was directed to BYU by family friend and former Cougar football player Brad Clark. He quickly became comfortable with Rose and the coaching staff, and believes the Cougars' fast-tempo style of play fits his own style. Carlino, who is not LDS but attended a strong LDS high school in Gilbert, Ariz., was also impressed by BYU's success in recent years and national ranking this year.
"It's just really fun to watch BYU play, and to then be able to play with them next year. I'm just looking forward to it," he said.
Knowing the Cougars will need a point guard next season when star Jimmer Fredette leaves also helped Carlino feel at home with BYU.
"What we really like as a coaching staff are playmaking guards," Rose said. "Guards who can pass, dribble, shoot, push the ball in transition, and I think that's what Matt is. He's a playmaking guard. He can score off the dribble. I think he's a really good shooter . . . I think expectation is that he'll be able to play the point guard position and that he'll be able to score from that position too."
Learning BYU's system with a half-season of practicing against Fredette will be a great way to improve Carlino's game, and will have him more ready to step in next season.
"That will be really good for me . . . Jimmer's amazing. He's the most relentless scorer I think I've ever seen in college basketball, personally. He's just a winner," Carlino said.
FITTING IN: If there's any BYU player this season that seems to be struggling with consistency, it's transfer sophomore Stephen Rogers. But Rose is pleased, nonetheless, with the contribution and steady improvement from the 6-foot-8 195-pound reserve forward.
"We're trying to just encourage him to have confidence, and to be ready when it's his turn," Rose said. "It's a tough role to be in right now because his minutes are kind of determined by how the other team plays us and what they're doing on ball screens and other things."
Rogers did not play against Creighton, only to come back in the next game to score a career-high 13 points in 19 minutes against Hawaii. He played a total of 27 minutes against Arizona and UCLA, but only five minutes against Weber State. Last week he scored five quick points off the bench to spark a comeback against UTEP.
Rose wants Rogers to play a similar reserve scoring and rebounding role to that Jonathan Tavernari filled for the Cougars last season.
"What's really different for Stephen is the role of coming off the bench and immediately looking for a shot. That's kind of what we want him to do," Rose said.