On any given night, Nico Carvacho is not a player that is expected to light up the stat sheet or make the highlight play that ends up on Sportscenter, but heading into the Mountain West Conference Tournament, the 6-foot-11 forward may be the team’s secret weapon for making a run at the NCAA tournament.
After redshirting last year, Carvacho began to catch the attention of basketball fans along the front range for his efforts on the Chilean national team in the FIBA South American Championship last summer.
Named to the Honorable Mention All-Tournament team by Latinbasket.com for his efforts, Carvacho shot 43 percent from the field, while averaging 11.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. In a win over Bolivia, Carvacho recorded his second-consecutive double-double with 13 points and a personal tournament-high 15 rebounds along with two assists, one steal and a pair of blocked shots.
“I played against men, so that helped me a lot coming in here,” Carvacho said of his time playing for Chile. “I played against guys that were 38 years old, 29 years old with three kids. They were really mature so it helped me a lot.”
Carvacho went onto explain that although international basketball is a lot different than what he faces here, especially the pace of the game, the experience helped him define his game and become a more versatile player.
“There is more passing and a lot more set plays. Here we just run the motion offense… I just try to adapt to what they put me in,” he said.
Carvacho busted onto the scene this year in a November road victory over Colorado, where the redshirt freshman recorded a career-high in points (14), while also bringing down nine rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Since that point, Carvacho has faced some up’s and down’s offensively. But the Chilean big man has made a living on the offensive glass, serving as one of the team’s best offensive rebounders and making key effort plays to keep possessions alive.
“Playing Division 1 is different than high school or even when I played overseas, so I just had to get used to it,” Carvacho said. “I went through a little rough patch, but just had to grow in confidence and focus on a couple things like defense, getting offensive rebounds, pick and rolling. If I score four points or if I score ten points, bring down ten rebounds or two rebounds, I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win.”
On the season, Carvacho has averaged 5.5 points and five rebounds per game. Carvacho explained that he understands his role with this team is not shouldering the weight offensively or necessarily making the big plays, but more as a complimentary piece to the senior duo of Emmanuel Omogbo and Gian Clavell.
“I know I’m a freshman, so I just have to play my role and do the best I can,” Carvacho said.
Although Carvacho has been comfortable taking a back seat offensively, do not underestimate his competitiveness or desire to match the play of his talented senior counterparts.
“He (Omogbo) motivates me because he gets every rebound,” Carvacho said. “We try to bring down 20 rebounds a game between the two of us.”
His teammates have taken notice too.
“I would say Nico is probably the guy who made my game so improved,” Omogbo said of the young forward. “I feel like without him I wouldn’t be doing some of the stuff I’m doing this year because he puts so much pressure on the rim. Whereas I can still be able to play make and play off him. Teams are starting to key in on his offensive rebounds, so that means I can go get some offensive rebounds.”
What does the young forward have to do for the Rams to make a run at the postseason? According to Carvacho, just keep doing he has been doing for the better part of the season and serving his role.
“Grab every rebound, play defense, go get the offensive rebound, make my free throws, dunk the ball,” Carvacho said. “Stuff like that.”
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JustinTMichael.