BYU coach Dave Rose was a mixture of funny, secretive and snarky when talking about a highly touted player who will see his first action as a collegian and Cougar on Saturday.
Matt Carlino has been in Provo for nearly a year. But the short-time UCLA player, who never suited up there for an official game, had to sit out until the end of the first semester at BYU because of NCAA transfer rules.
He'll get his first shot Saturday against No. 6-ranked and undefeated Baylor at the Marriott Center.
"Not a lot of people get to play against that good of a caliber of team in their first game," Carlino said after practice Thursday. "I'm just really excited."
Rose, who's never had such a transfer situation in his previous six years as BYU's head coach, conceded it is "not the most ideal situation" to add a third point guard right now. But having the left-hander for 3 1/2 years was "worth the adjustment period we're going to go through here."
Carlino early in high school committed to Indiana and even moved to the campus town of Bloomington from Arizona. Realizing around his junior year that he didn't like the fit, he wound up at UCLA. Coach Ben Howland, who was going to back-to-back Final Fours last decade, has had a slew of talented players leave Westwood in recent years. Carlino just didn't go to UNLV like a handful of others.
Rose said Carlino would not start against Baylor, which improved to 8-0 Wednesday against Bethune-Cookman and has what first-year assistant coach Mark Pope counted as up to six first-round NBA draft pick possibilities over the next two seasons.
The Bears are especially loaded as their offense gets closer to the rim, with long and athletic players who amassed 10 dunks in their last win.
"Probably more than we've had all season," Rose quipped.
He was awfully generous in praising the Bears, but rigid when asked about Carlino. At least as far as making comparisons or proclamations.
Asked how Carlino differs from Anson Winder and Craig Cusick, who have divided the minutes the past six games, Rose said tersely "he's left-handed."
Pressed to inform media and fans if Carlino has been worth the hype bestowed upon him, Rose said: "Come to the game (to find out). Or turn the TV on. One of the two."
All that's known is that Carlino will play at some point (my guess is no later than midway through the first half).
The last three weeks, BYU has started to integrate him with the first-team more, rather than the scout-team duty he had been receiving the majority of the time since he arrived last January.
"We'll see" how much Carlino plays, Rose said.
Teammates like Charles Abouo say he's been a valuable asset at practice and don't believe the integration period will be steep. Carlino spent a lot of time from last January to March guarding Jimmer Fredette.
Watch for more leading up to the Baylor-BYU game in the upcoming hours and days.
Two notes of immediate interest:
∫Sixth-man (scoring) specialist Stephen Rogers left practice early Thursday and was taken to the hospital for an MRI because of knee pain. Rogers has battled some pain the past couple of weeks, but it's unclear if this practice accident is directly related to an ailment that forced him out of the Utah game early because of a collision. He missed most of the session.
"It's pretty serious," Rose said. "He's in a lot of pain. That's a big blow if he can't play."
Also, Rose let in on some of how Baylor agreed to the two-game series which includes the Cougars going to Waco, Texas, next season.
Baylor coach Scott Drew expressed some interest at one point, backed off and then called BYU again.
There were two catches: The game had to be played on this date (Dec. 17) and it had to end before 3 p.m.
Baylor must return home fairly quick for a Monday game against Paul Quinn, an NAIA school in Dallas.