On Dec. 27, 2017, in a boys’ basketball game at Old Bridge High School, Jared Meyer tore his ACL.
The injury changed the course of Old Bridge boys’ basketball history.
For one, it pushed Meyer’s teammate and best friend, Julius Belton, to become Old Bridge’s creator and leader. And secondly, it allowed this year’s Knights to add an elite creator, Meyer, fresh off rehab, to an already good team.
Back together, the senior guards are leading Old Bridge to a special season.
At 17-3 overall, the Knights have earned the No. 2 seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament. At 13-1 in Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division play, Old Bridge has already clinched the division title.
“We’re excited,” said Old Bridge coach Jim Macomber. “Everyone is ok, not banged up, so we feel good about our chances, as long as we play basketball the way we know how to play.”
Old Bridge knows how to play team basketball. Its two standouts, Belton and Meyer, share ball handling duties without egos getting in the way.
The duo has been playing together since elementary school travel ball with the (other) Old Bridge Knights. Meyer was the best player back then, but Belton caught him last winter, scoring 17 points per game and leading Old Bridge to a 19-8 season.
Meyer is happy that he did.
“Our chemistry is very high when we play together. We feed off each other. If one’s missing, the other is going,” he said. “When we’re both going, we’re hard to stop.”
Belton may have transformed into a standout last winter, but the Knights lost to Hightstown High School, 72-36, in the Central Jersey, Group 4 state sectional quarterfinals.
They lost because Belton needed more help. He recorded 15 points, but no other Old Bridge players scored in double figures. Belton could have used Meyer.
This winter, it took Meyer a couple weeks to get used to varsity basketball again. He was coming off a rehab period that lasted a year.
But on Dec. 29 against Matawan Regional High School, Meyer came out and buried his first shot, a three from the right wing. At that moment, he knew he was back.
“I felt explosive and my confidence kicked,” he said. “I feel like adding me to the lineup spreads the floor out. Last year Julius was the only creator. It was easier to double team him, face guard shooters and stop us.”
Now, opponents can’t double Belton. If they do, Meyer will go off.
But rivals also can’t face guard Old Bridge’s shooters anymore. Mike Oliva and Ryan Delacuesta have emerged into deadeye marksmen. Through 20 games, the duo has combined for 78 three pointers.
“When they are hot, the game is in our hands and we can do what we want,” Meyer said. “When they get face guarded, it makes it so much easier for me and Julius to attack the basket.”
With such a prolific, efficient, Houston Rockets style offense, the Knights will be hard to defend, and beat, in the postseason.
For 12 months, Meyer did physical therapy three times a week and home exercises every day. He never missed a session.
“(Former New York Knicks and current Dallas Mavericks star Kristaps) Porzingis has taken more than a year off with the same injury,” Macomber said. “This is a high school kid who was back in 12 months. That’s who he is. First in the gym, last to leave.”
Meyer rehabbed to get back for his senior year. Now, with his best friend and their reliable teammates, he has a chance to make it memorable.
“Our potential is there,” Meyer said. “We feel confident in our ability to win the state title.”