Nico Carvacho developing into one of CSU’s best distributors

Colin Barnard

It’s rare for big men to possess top-tier vision to accompany their rebounding prowess, but the combination of talent does exist.

Nikola Jokic, Kevin Love and Marc Gasol are proving this at the professional level. At Colorado State, center Nico Carvacho is in the midst of developing the same skillset.

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Guards Prentiss Nixon and J.D. Paige still lead the team in assists per game. That makes sense, given how often the two ball-handlers control the offense. Carvacho is the one delivering highlight-reel passes on a nightly basis since the beginning of conference play, though.

The 6-foot-11, 240-pound center has always been physical down low, but his added ability to facilitate is widely apparent. In addition to leading the Rams with 8.9 rebounds per game, Carvacho is second in total assists behind Paige.

Carvacho lay-up
Nico Carvacho (32) with two of his 12 total points after a fast-break steal lay-up during the first half of the Rams’ 76-71 loss to the Falcons. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

What’s more, Carvacho has proven to be smart with the ball in his hands. He is the only Ram to start every game who boasts an assist/turnover ratio north of one. On the entire team, he is one of just three players with significant playing time who share that label.

“I really just play off what I have, use my IQ to hit the open person,” Carvacho said. “I’m not trying to force anything. If I see someone open, I’ll give them the ball.”

Though the numbers are not staggering, the way in which Carvacho finds teammates is noteworthy. Banking on backcourt cuts from his teammates, Carvacho’s vision leads to easy baskets.

Against Utah State on Jan. 10, Carvacho held the ball at the 3-point line before firing a one-handed dot through two defenders to hit a driving Anthony Bonner for the layup. In the next game against Wyoming, the teammates dialed up nearly the exact same play as Carvacho split an even tighter gap with perfection for another easy bucket.

It’s these passes that stand out among Carvacho’s skillset.  

Possibly more important than the assists themselves, Carvacho’s passing talent keeps the defense off balance. As he continues to grow into the role, he can control the game from the top of the key and low post. Very few near 7-footers can lay claim to that statement.

Over the same stretch, the big man’s physicality on the glass has matched his athletic makeup. Carvacho has notched at least 13 rebounds in the last four games, including a 19-rebound performance against Fresno State on Jan. 6.

Carvacho has a total of 50 rebounds during the four-game span . An impressive 40 percent of those boards have come on the offensive side as Carvacho consistently finds ways to give the Rams a second opportunity to score.  

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The center showed his rebounding prowess by beginning the season with 15- and 20-rebound games against Sacramento State and Winthrop. Despite going the next 14 games without double-digit rebounds, his last four games cause reason for excitement.

Coach Eustachy has long-touted Carvacho and his athletic abilities. This season, his combination of vision and strength show why. The next step for the big man is taking advantage of scoring opportunities in the paint.

If and when that happens, Carvacho could find himself among the best in the Mountain West.

Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.