NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Pioneer senior Matt Romeo is a part of a rare breed of high school athletes. He not only plays all three major sports (football, basketball and baseball), but does so with such high ability that you wonder what Romeo would be like if he specialized in just one.
By the look on Romeo’s face when he is on the field, you know he wouldn’t do that. He enjoys all three in the same but different ways.
So it came to no one’s surprise last week when the lengthy center who “does all the little stuff” stepped up and scored 26 points against Summit.
Romeo’s game-high total was good for his first career 20+ point game, earning him this week’s TAP into New Providence’s Athlete of the Week.
“I think it was a combination of me hitting shots and my teammates finding me,” Romeo said. “I think we were playing well, we were clicking. They were great atmospheres for us with our first home game and then playing on Super Saturday. It was a great atmosphere. We were really excited to play. It just helped me elevate my play. I played really well.”
If you’ve ever spent 5 minutes talking to Romeo, that’s an answer you expect. He’s not one to take the credit for anything, even when it’s more than deserved. Instead, he stands in the shadows and leads by example.
“I try to set the table for my guys that are distributing the ball, rebounding, boxing out, doing the things that maybe get overlooked a little bit,” Romeo said. “I try to lead to scoring for my guys.”
His guys have more than benefited from his play, as Romeo has given the Pioneers offense more than enough extra possessions and second chance points due to his strong rebounding skills. Its those types of plays that differentiate Romeo from the rest.
“Matt can really shoot,” senior Kevin Haggerty said. “He was hitting a lot of shots when he had a bum shoulder, which shows a lot that he can play through pain. He’s a tough guy and he can pound the boards too. He’s a very multi-faceted player.”
In last Thursday’s game against Summit and even Saturday’s game at Gov. Livingston the casual fan couldn’t notice the amount of labor it took for Romeo to even be on the floor.
Ever since last baseball season, Romeo has been battling a nagging shoulder injury that kept him out of several football games in the fall. After having no pain since the start of basketball, Romeo felt “weird” during Summit’s pregame warm-ups to the point where he didn’t know how long he would be able to play for.
But, as luck would have it, the Summit game proved to be one of the best in his career.
“I came in feeling really weird,” Romeo said. “I felt the pain coming back more than it had been. I told [head coach Art Cattano] that I didn't know how much I could play. As I was going through, I started to get hot so I thought I’d go as long as I could. That was just kind of the biggest thing, seeing how far I could go.”
Romeo hasn’t played since Monday’s loss to North Plainfield in an attempt to get his shoulder back to normal, but that doesn't mean he has sat back and not contributed. After all, Romeo does have a future to think about.
“He’s always talked about being interested in coaching at some time,” Cattano said. “ “He’s very smart out there. He talks to the kids a lot. He’s talking a lot when we’re sitting there. He sees a lot of things. When he’s on the court, its almost like having another coach on the court helping out.”
While he wishes to be out on the floor, Romeo has enjoyed a different perspective the last two games which has allowed him to learn more about the game, even if it is at the cost of his fellow Pioneers.
“Sometimes I become more irritable as a player just to my teammates because I see all these things that you can’t see on the court,” he said. “It's a great vantage point though because it helps me understand the game better, even for when I’m in there. Its incredible. It helps me a lot and allows me to help my teammates out as well.”
Editor’s Note: TAP into New Providence would like to congratulate Matt Romeo on a fantastic week on the hardwood and hopes to see him back on the floor soon.