Palmer High School junior Darien Meyers has taken his share of bumps on the basketball court, but he’s starting to hand them out.
It started when he was learning the game from his grandfather, a former football player.
“When I was smaller than him, I was the shrub in his forest,” Meyers said. “Making me come down in the paint, he used to always block me and always bully me.”
That was good preparation for his first varsity experience, which came last season after Palmer lost 12 seniors from the 2015-16 squad. After spending his freshman season on junior varsity - practicing against those seniors - Meyers averaged 8.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in a sophomore campaign shortened to 15 games by a wrist injury.
PHS limped to a 6-17 finish.
“It was really rough,” Meyers recalled. “Emotionally, I don’t think I was ready for it. I was still a little kid. I still wanted to be a sophomore at heart. It just matured me. I realized that if I want to win games with this team, then I’ll have to give it my all, all the time.”
That started with a strong summer with Boykins Basketball Academy. Meyers returned more aggressive and confident this year, according to Palmer coach Jimmy Grantz.
The results show growth, too.
The 6-foot-3 wing is on the verge of averaging a double-double at 16.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, and Palmer already matched last season's win total with a 6-6 record despite a 1-4 start and Meyers missing two games to injury.
In three 2018 games, Meyers has posted as many double-doubles to earn Peak Performer of the Week. The high point was a 33-point, 12 rebound effort in an overtime win against Sand Creek.
“It was one of those games we felt like we were in control, but we could never quite put it away,” Grantz said.
Meyers made 12 of 13 free throws in that game to reach a new career high in scoring.
“I just kept having a mismatch that game, and my teammates kept feeding me the ball,” he said. “It ended up being a pretty good night for me.”
He also had 18 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in a close loss to Fountain-Fort Carson and 13 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in a win over Hinkley.
Now that he’s too big for Grandpa to bully, their workouts have focused on Meyers’ ability to score.
That too appears to have paid off. He’s made 88 percent of his free throws and 36 percent from deep. His efficiency from 3-point range dipped after a combined 2-11 showing last week, but Meyers found other ways.
“My grandpa has always told me, it’s like ‘We work on the 3-point shot, but if it’s not falling we always have the speed and the moves to get to the rim,’” Meyers said.
The Terrors’ lack of size - only 6-foot-4 senior Jadin Burney is taller - forced Meyers to put an emphasis on cleaning the glass and defending other teams’ post player when necessary.
“He’s been really willing to do that,” Grantz said.
When it comes to rebounding, Meyers’ outlook is simple.
“The ball helps you win. You score with the ball,” Meyers said. “I try to get that ball as many times as I can.”
Whether its knocking down free throws, hitting the boards or blocking shots, Meyers has a knack for making winning plays.
“He’s been a factor in everything we’ve done,” the Palmer coach said.
“His effort has been great.”
Last year, Meyers said the losing wore on him, souring his attitude on certain days.
He says he knows better as a junior leader.
“Now, one game is one game, you can’t dwell on the past,” he said.
The past is littered with physical and metaphorical bruises and bumps.
Meyers hopes the future holds more points, rebounds and wins en route to an opportunity to play in college.
“I just want to win,” Meyers said. “I’ve started to get a really good bond with the kids on my team, and I like being a leader with them. And I love playing with them now. If I could average a double-double for the rest of this year and my senior year and just play with these guys and win, that would be just great.”
Other Peak Performers
Jayda Lyon, Liberty
The 5-foot-7 senior reached double figures in all three of the Lancers’ games in the new year, helping Liberty to a 2-1 week. She started the week with 15 points in a win over Sand Creek before a cold shooting night saw her score 14 in a close loss to Doherty. She rebounded in a big way, scoring 25 of her team’s 54 points in a win over Fountain-Fort Carson on Saturday.
Spencer Sykes, Pine Creek
Sykes had a hand in more than half of the Eagles’ seven goals in a win over Doherty on Saturday. He had three goals and an assist, as Pine Creek moved above .500 at 4-3 on the season.
Swimming and Diving
Meredith Rees, Lewis-Palmer
Rees had a pair of top-two finishes to help the Rangers finish fourth at Saturday’s Boulder County Invitational. Rees won the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 56.44 seconds and took second in the 100 butterfly in 57.91.
Devin Lueck, Mesa Ridge
Lueck, a senior 120-pounder, was one of the Grizzlies’ eight champions at the Mullen Invitational on Saturday as Mesa Ridge easily won the team title. Lueck advanced to the finals with ease, pinning his first two opponents in the first period before advancing the the finals with a 17-1 technical fall. In the final, he won a 6-2 decision over Regis Jesuit’s Clifford Pinkerton.