LOS ANGELES — Matt Carlino stepped outside for a breath of fresh air, as much as one can be found in this area.
Between interview sessions, and a long sit-down with fellow West Coast Conference players Thursday, Carlino walked through a set of doors into the haze.
It had been a long day, waking up at 5 a.m. to catch a flight from Salt Lake City to a television studio near the bustling Los Angeles International Airport.
The BYU point guard yawned in the early afternoon, then expressed some discomfort with his back.
No need to panic, Cougar fans.
"It's just that I sat next to a defensive lineman on the plane," Carlino said. "He said he went to Indiana State. He said he played pro football but I don't know if I was buying it."
Carlino now smiles, and this is a common occurrence for him these days compared to his first 1 1/2 seasons on the court in Provo.
Older, unafraid to make a mistake or avoid showing off his personality — Carlino is emboldened these days by his role, his experience and now being a co-captain.
He insists he was more than happy to wake up well before sunrise to catch a flight, then talk about the program for a few hours.
"Everything feels new to me this year," Carlino said. "It all feels fresh. I ended my freshman season horrible. Last year, I was a lot better. Now, I'm not living in the past. But I guess I'm not afraid to try or fail like I might have been in the past. I'm comfortable."
BYU was pegged to finish second in the 10-team West Coast Conference (Pacific joins this season), as voted upon by coaches and announced Thursday.
Nationally ranked Gonzaga, as expected, was picked to win the league again.
Carlino certainly took notice of the bevy of point guards on the 10-player all-WCC team: San Francisco's Cody Doolin, Loyola Marymount's Anthony Ireland, Gonzaga junior Kevin Pangos, Saint Mary's senior Stephen Holt.
None named Carlino.
Only teammate Tyler Haws — the nation's seventh-best scorer last winter — made the list.
There was no mention of Kyle Collinsworth. Like Haws last year, he is coming off an LDS mission and isn't known much by WCC coaches. Presumably he will be soon.
"Kyle will take pressure off me," Carlino said of his fellow captain, along with Haws.
Carlino's numbers really weren't very different between his freshman and sophomore years. Remember, he suited up only half of his freshman year because of the timing of his transfer from UCLA.
He played about a minute more per game last season, but his shooting percentages and points were all within about a point.
He averaged about 11.5 points last year while shooting nearly identical percentages from the field and 3-point line, respectively (40, 33).
Now, some rules have changed for Carlino.
BYU head coach Dave Rose said there will be some adjustments on transition offense. The Cougars have tended to require the point guard to bring up the ball. The return of Collinsworth, plus the addition of versatile freshman Frank Bartley IV, will sometimes take the ball out of Carlino's hands.
Maybe the biggest difference for Carlino, though, is a flourishing personality. He says the recent mugging for cameras at the BYU football game and basketball showcase wouldn't surprise teammates, but he recognizes the extrovert attitude would probably stun outsiders.
He's another year removed from being the follow-up to Jimmer Fredette, which may have helped ease the inner tension.
"I guess I just don't really care anymore, what people think. I'm just worrying about myself. I guess I just feel more comfortable. I've been through it, kind of. It's more fun," Carlino said.
Rose said the confidence comes in part from Carlino's memorable play in the three-game NIT run to New York City, plus his preparation to be a leader.
"Matty's worked hard for it," Rose said. "He's had a great offseason. His conditioning is improved. He understands the challenge in front of him and I think he's comfortable with it. That's a good sign."