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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Young Carlino chooses IU in tricky twist for hoops’ future

    All Madden

    The Arizona men’s basketball coaching staff just lost about four years of work.

    High school sophomore Matt Carlino – to whom the Wildcats offered a scholarship when he was in seventh grade – verbally committed to play for Indiana this past weekend.

    This came after the 6-foot-2, 170-pound point guard attended two camps at Indiana this summer.

    Just like that, within an eight-week period, new Indiana head coach Tom Creanÿconvinced this teen – who can’t even drive yet – to become a Hoosier.

    UA head coach Lute Olson has been in the same city for a quarter of a century, something Crean cannot say the same about. And since Crean recently signed a 10-year contract, Carlino has the reassurance of knowing that Crean will be the head coach when he becomes a college student in 2011.

    The Wildcat faithful will grimace for years to come, not so much because of Carlino’s skills, but because of his UA ties. Not only was Carlino the nation’s No. 1 eighth grader two years ago, according to Rivals.com, but he is from a UA family, more or less.

    He is the nephew of Brock Brunkhorst, Olson’s first point guard at Arizona. He has been spotted in “”Arizona Basketball”” t-shirts and has worked out with UA assistant coach Russ Pennell, who was his Amateur Athletic Union coach, for the past three years.

    “”The impressive thing about him has been his maturity,”” Pennell said at the 2007 Arizona Cactus Classic in McKale Center. “”He’s been a very good teammate, very humble, and very accessible to his teammates. He just knows how to play. He’s got a great feel for the basketball game.””

    So when Pennell was hired to coach for the Wildcats, it was almost a sure thing that Carlino would be a Wildcat in 2011. That Pennell could rope in recruits from the AAU circuit seemed like the best part of his hire. It was just a bonus that Carlino is no stranger to McKale Center, having played in the Cactus Classic and Olson’s elite camps.

    Furthermore, the lefty knows about other Phoenix greats who used the UA as a bridge to the NBA: Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, Mike Bibby and Jerryd Bayless.

    Arizona’s title as Point Guard U and reputation to get guards to the professional ranks was just a plus.

    Matt Carlino’s father, Mark Carlino, is now his head coach at Gilbert Highland High School. He used to serve as an assistant at St. Mary’s in Phoenix, where Olson and former assistant coach Josh Pastner would visit Bayless during his recruitment.

    Matt Carlino often came to the gym to play with the St. Mary’s varsity team, giving him an opportunity to shine for the UA coaches, along with Bayless.

    But with the departure of Pastner to Memphis and Olson’s UA contract ending at the end of the 2011 season, when he’ll be 76, it’s only natural for the young Carlino to have his doubts about what the coaching situation will be like when he is ready for college.

    That is not to say that Olson will retire in 2011. He could coach until he’s 100 if he wants; it is his team. But Carlino doesn’t know that. He expected Olson to be there last season when he took a year-long leave.

    “”I’m happy he’s back but I’m not really sure about last year,”” Carlino said of Olson at the Cactus Classic in May, adding that Arizona was still one of his top choices for college. “”I really didn’t know what happened.””

    When asked if Olson’s leave confused him at all, Carlino said, “”No. This is always going to be a good program.””

    With assistant coaches only getting year-long contracts before they have to be rehired, Carlino can’t guarantee now that Pennell will be a Wildcat coach in 2011, either. Unless something drastic happens at Indiana between now and 2011, at least he has a definite answer of who will coach him in college.

    You are rolling the dice if you expect the same from Arizona.

    – Lance Madden is a journalism junior. Contact him at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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