Los Angeles • Matt Carlino acknowledges that he's moved around a lot in his search for basketball happiness, a journey that took him to two high schools near his hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz., then to a high school in Bloomington, Ind., and then to UCLA, where he lasted less than three months before bidding farewell to the Bruins and coach Ben Howland.
The maniacal New York Yankees fan and non-LDS player insists, though, that he's finally found a home in Provo, of all places.
"I'm really happy here," he said Tuesday after a practice at the Marriott Center.
Becoming eligible to play for BYU on Dec. 17, the Cougars' point guard will start in his sixth straight game, and play in his seventh, when BYU meets Loyola Marymount on Thursday night at Gersten Pavilion. Coincidentally, that's not far from where Carlino's former team, UCLA, will host Arizona on Thursday at the Honda Center in Orange County as its Pauley Pavilion home undergoes renovation.
"No regrets whatsoever," Carlino said. "I couldn't have made a better decision. I am happy with how I have continued to make progress, and how my teammates and coaches want me to continue to get better. I know they don't think I have even come close to reaching the maximum potential that I can for this year. I am just excited to see what we can do this year, and am reaching for that."
Given the 19-year-old redshirt freshman's history, BYU fans couldn't be blamed for being a bit skeptical about Carlino's ability to stick around. But Carlino's best friend with whom he talks or texts every day his 16-year-old brother, Jack says this time the connection is real.
"He likes it a ton," said Jack Carlino, a junior at Brophy Prep in Phoenix who doesn't play prep basketball. "He has good friends up there. He really enjoys it."
Little brother's description of the 6-foot-2 guard who is averaging 15 points a game since dumping 18 on No. 6 Baylor in his debut: "He doesn't like losing at all, to anyone. Even if it is just with family, he will do anything to win. Anything."
It is way, way too early to begin comparing Carlino to the BYU point guard he is replacing, the best point guard in school history, but no one can argue that his impact on the program in his first six games has been greater than almost anyone imagined. Jimmer Fredette averaged 7.0 points, 1.8 assists and 1.1 rebounds per game his freshman season, while playing 18.5 minutes per game and not starting once in 35 outings.
Carlino is averaging 15.0 points, 4.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 25.5 minutes a game.
Carlino "is progressing really well," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "We need him to continue to get better. … There's a lot of film work with assistant coaches, a lot of film work with our team where Matt just needs to watch himself, and see the plays that are really positive for our team, and see the plays where he can help us a little bit more.
"It is a process, and besides the fact that he is just playing in his sixth game here, it is his sixth Division I college basketball game, so he's a little bit different in a transfer situation. Most transfers have played for somebody else, and then they come adjust to your system. Matt is just trying to learn the ropes and actually learn our system."
Slowly, Carlino is providing details about why he left UCLA (he originally committed to Indiana before signing with the Bruins) after saying he didn't want to talk about it when he first arrived in Provo more than a year ago. A collision with fellow guard Malcolm Lee after UCLA's first exhibition game in 2010 produced the concussion that sidelined him for the last exhibition game and the first three games of the season.
After he was medically cleared to play, he did not get into the next four games because of coaches' decisions.
"It just wasn't a good fit [at UCLA]," he said. "It was a good experience there, but the reason I don't want to talk about it is because I just want to be here at BYU, and I don't want to talk about the past. I am with this group now, and I feel like I have been at BYU my whole college career.
"I never felt like I was part of the program [at UCLA]," he continued. "Here, I feel like I am part of the program, part of it all. I just never felt comfortable there."
More comfortable in Provo than in Los Angeles?
"Yeah, believe it or not," he said. "That concussion was a blessing in disguise." Matt Carlino file
• Transferred from UCLA after suffering a concussion early in his freshman year and never playing in a game for the Bruins.
• Became eligible to play Dec. 17 against Baylor (pictured above); scored 18 points in 24 minutes.
• Redshirt freshman graduated from high school in Indiana (Bloomington South) a year early and is only 19 years old.
• Grew up near Scottsdale, Ariz., and scored 30 or more points six times as a sophomore at Highland High.
BYU at Loyola Marymount
P At Gersten Pavilion, Los Angeles
Tipoff • 7 p.m. MST
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 12-4, 1-1; LMU 8-6, 1-0
Series history • LMU leads, 2-1
Last meeting • BYU 91, LMU 62 (Jan. 3, 2008)
About the Cougars • Junior center Brandon Davies is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 21.0 points and 14.0 rebounds per game in three games last week. … Junior forward Stephen Rogers is expected to play after missing the last six games with a torn meniscus in his right knee. … Point guard Matt Carlino is averaging 15.0 points per game in six games, second-best on the team to Noah Hartsock's 17.1 average.
About the Lions • They are led in scoring by Drew Viney, a 6-8 forward who is averaging 16.0 points per game. … Anthony Ireland, a 5-10 point guard, is averaging 14.1 points per game. ... Coach Max Good is 40-68 in his fourth season at the school. … They are averaging 71.1 points per game, and yielding 68.3 ppg.