Bloomington – There wasn't anything about his college decision that felt too early to Matt Carlino.
The most recent IU pledge might be only a high school sophomore, but he's a grizzly veteran when it comes to the recruiting scene. College coaches began taking notice of the Gilbert, Ariz., guard in the sixth grade, he received his first scholarship offer in the seventh grade, and he's been a well-known commodity ever since.
Arizona Coach Lute Olson was the first to offer, having watched Carlino play with Jeryd Bayless at open gyms at St. Mary's High School when he was in the seventh grade. Olson saw enough that he liked to offer Carlino when was just a middle schooler, and things intensified from there.
"I didn't even think they offered kids that early back then," Carlino said. "After that, everything really picked up."
Carlino said everyone in the Pac-10 quickly made contact. Matt's father, Mark, is the high school basketball coach at Highland H.S. and he was fielding inquiries just about everyday. The family knew the interest would only intensify during the next couple of years.
But those fears all came to an abrupt end late Saturday night when Carlino capped his trip to Bloomington and IU's Elite Camp by committing to IU Coach Tom Crean and his staff after the conclusion of the camp. Carlino pointed to the combination of Crean's coaching and Indiana's reputation as the perfect combination for his combo-guard skills.
"The tradition at Indiana is just unbelievable and the fans are amazing," Carlino said. "I loved it here. I looked at things, and realized you can't get any better than Indiana."
This weekend's trip was Carlino's second stop in Bloomington, coming on the heels of a trip with his high school team to Crean's team camp earlier this summer. Carlino first became impressed with the first-year Hoosier coach when he was still at Marquette, and it's carried over to IU now that he's in charge of the Hoosier program.
"He's great at coaching guards," Carlino said. "What he did with Dwyane Wade and Travis Diener was great. He really wants to get his guards to the next level. I trust him and I think he'll be a great coach for me to try to do that."
With only one year of high school basketball under his belt, Carlino has a long ways to go before he'll be at IU, let alone the NBA. The first member of IU's 2011 class still has to wait more than two years before he can sign a binding national letter of intent to attend IU, and his freshman year in Bloomington will be the 2011-12 campaign.
But he's already proving himself to be a special talent, despite his young age. As a high school freshman he averaged 16 point, seven rebounds and five assists at Highland H.S., and he's a four-star recruit according to Scout.com who figures to be a top-25 player nationally in the 2011 class. He combines a very good stroke from behind the 3-point line with the sort of athleticism that has him dunking with ease as a 15-year-old.
Carlino said Crean doesn't necessarily compare him to any of his past players, but instead envisions him as someone who could play a variety of positions in the backcourt. Crean had Carlino working with former IU great Isiah Thomas on the pick-and-roll at the Elite Camp Saturday, and he also talked to Crean about other facets of his game to work on back home.
"I think he likes me as a combo," Carlino said. "He likes the way I shoot the ball, but he's been talking to me a lot about how to run the point. He's also been talking to me about being more vocal on the basketball court."
Those are all things Carlino plans to work on for the next three years at Highland H.S. before he arrives at IU in three years. He said he looks forward to being able to focus on improving his game during that timeframe and no longer having to deal with the life of being a heavily recruited high school athlete.
Carlino said he didn't necessarily see himself being a player who would commit anywhere this early, but his trips to Indiana changed his opinion.
"When I came down to Indiana this summer (for team camp), that's really the first time I thought about committing anywhere early," Carlino said. "But after being there and being around IU basketball, I just felt like Indiana was the place I wanted to be."
Carlino Goes In-Depth About IU Decision
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