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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Carlino interested in joining Point Guard U’s lineage

    MESA – At an age when many boys haven’t even experienced their first kiss, nonetheless thought about where they want to attend college, then-seventh grader Matt Carlino already had a scholarship offer from Arizona in hand.

    That in itself shows how much the recruitment of Carlino, now a freshman point guard at Gilbert Highland, means to the Wildcats.

    Carlino’s father Mark, now his head coach at Highland, used to serve as an assistant at Phoenix St. Mary’s, where UA head coach Lute Olson and assistant coach Josh Pastner would visit current UA guard Jerryd Bayless during his recruitment.

    Matt Carlino often came to the gym and played with the St. Mary’s varsity team, where the UA coaches saw him battle Bayless and obviously came away impressed.

    “”It was different because I didn’t even know they offered people that young,”” Matt said of the very early offer. “”I don’t really know how to explain it. The word is ‘shocking’ probably.””

    Now ironically enough, the class of 2011’s Carlino has been mentioned as the next great Arizona high school player after Bayless, the Arizona Republic‘s two-time Big School Player of the Year who Carlino has known his whole life having lived a few blocks away growing up.

    He could end up being a bigger prospect than the current Arizona star, who ranked No. 13 by recruiting service in the class of 2007. Rivals ranked Carlino as the No. 1 eighth grader in the nation last year, and US Elite Basketball put him on its list of the nation’s top players, accolades his father makes sure do not get to his head.

    “”He knows that rankings are just a ranking, and the way we keep him grounded is to know he can always get better,”” Mark said. “”We try not to pay attention to rankings because they really don’t mean much. We’ve seen players that don’t even exist in the rankings that are as good as anyone on them. The bottom line is he keeps his perspective as to what he is, where he is and how far he has to still go.””

    Wearing an “”Arizona Basketball”” T-shirt following No. 1 Highland’s 64-61 win over No. 2 Mesa Mountain View Thursday at the Arizona Basketball Classic, Matt said he’s received interest from UCLA, Washington State, Marquette and “”Arizona, obviously.””

    “”I respect Arizona a lot,”” said Carlino, who attended the school’s elite camp in August. “”They’ll always be one of my top choices.””

    The nephew of Brock Brunkhorst, Lute Olson’s first point guard at Arizona, Carlino could end up following in his uncle’s footsteps, but he does not plan on making up his mind any time soon.

    “”Not until I’m able to see everything that’s going on,”” he said. “”So much changes. I mean, I just see with Lute what happened, but so much changes in four years that I don’t know right now. I don’t know who I’d be playing with.””

    I respect Arizona a lot. They’ll always be one of my top choices-Matt Carlino, UA recruit

    His father said he wants Matt to have ownership of his recruitment, adding he’ll be there for input but that it’s most important for Carlino to feel comfortable with his decision.

    “”Right now I think he just wants to keep trying to get better and start to understand what’s out there for him and who would be the best fit for him,”” Mark said. “”There’s a long road ahead, there’s a lot of things that go in it, variables, and you’ve just got to count your blessings every day that two or three years from now he’s still in the same position that he is now.””

    Carlino said he excels at seeing the floor. His dad added that he’s very calm under pressure, plays a mature games, has no fear of taking a big shot and most impressive has the ability to slow the game down.

    As an aspiring point guard living in the Phoenix area, Mark has his son watch how the position is played by Suns point guard Steve Nash, who Matt said he tries to model his game after.

    “”He’s a different kind of player than Steve Nash, but certainly you can learn a lot from Steve Nash playing the point,”” Mark said. “”We use his model a lot, just the different things he does on a basketball court, so he can emulate some of the really positive things he does on the basketball court.””

    Matt said he needs to work on his all-around game but most specifically improving his strength and speed.

    He will grow into a college basketball player alongside fellow freshman guard Nick Johnson, who Arizona also has interest in.

    Johnson, who has been offered a scholarship by ASU and received interest from UCLA along with the Wildcats, said he has not thought specifically about where he would want to play his college ball but added that he thinks Arizona is “”a great school.””

    Carlino and Johnson – the nephew of former Suns guard Dennis Johnson – wanted to play high school ball together, which became a reality when Mark got the Highland job and they both enrolled at the school.

    “”He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with and against, so I just wanted to play with him more,”” Johnson said of Carlino.

    Johnson, an athletic slasher who said he needs work on his ball-handling and shooting, could develop into an elite college prospect side by side with Carlino, who assisted on Johnson’s first high school points on a lob he threw for a dunk.

    UA signee Brendon Lavender, a guard who saw the duo firsthand Thursday during his Mountain View squad’s loss to Highland, came away impressed.

    “”They’re good,”” Lavender said. “”They have a lot of work to do. I know Nick Johnson, he’s real young, and I was just talking about with my dad, if he works as hard as he can he’ll be one of the best players in the state, for sure.””

    If both players follow Lavender’s advice and keep improving, they could remain teammates through college, possibly with Lavender at Arizona.

    “”Through the next three years (after this one) we’re going to grow,”” Johnson said, “”and if we play together in college it’s going to be even more crazy.””

    Bejarano looking at ‘Cats, Devils

    Although he struggled to a 30.2 percent shooting performance while jacking up 96 shots in four games at the Arizona Basketball Classic, Phoenix North’s Daniel Bejarano remains a UA target in the class of 2010 as a 6-foot-5 forward with athleticism and a jump shot.

    Bejarano – the Metro Region Player of the Year last year as a freshman when he led the region in points (20.1 per game), rebounding (10.4) and steals (2.4) – attended the Arizona Elite Camp in August and has the Wildcats and Sun Devils in his top two.

    “”It was good, it was my first camp,”” he said.

    Bejarano called himself a good shooter with a hand in his face although he struggled with shot selection in the tournament.

    Don’t expect a college commitment from him soon as he said he plans to wait until his senior year in high school before deciding.

    Click here for more on how the Wildcats’ recruiting targets fared at the Arizona Basketball Challenge.

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