By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Old is new again in the Middle Township High School boys basketball program.
In the biggest area high school basketball news of the offseason, Tom Feraco has returned to the place where he had so much previous success as head coach.
He brings a resume that includes a 719-251 career record, nine South Jersey titles and three state championships over 35 seasons.
Feraco returns to the fold after Anthony Farmer was let go following three seasons as head coach after Feraco’s initial retirement.
Feraco comes back to a program that might have fallen from the Cape-Atlantic League’s elite in recent years but one that also has the structure in place to eventually return to such status.
Middle features a senior-laden group this winter, albeit one without a lot of varsity experience. But Feraco has seen some encouraging signs.
“This group reminds me of some of the teams I had in the past,” he said. “There are some good athletes in there, they work hard and they listen. Typical Middle kids. And if you have those intangibles, you can be competitive.”
Middle enters the new season, which begins with a juicy county matchup at Ocean City on Friday at 6 p.m. (live radio on 106.3 The Shore), with some injury issues, however. One of the team’s returning starters, senior T.J. Harris (6-3 F), is out at least a month with a knee injury suffered in a scrimmage. A key junior, Jeremiah Camacho (6-1 G), came down with an ankle injury in the same scrimmage and was also not in uniform as of early this week.
In their absence, Middle will lean on seniors Miles Sapp (6-3 F) and Matt Marino (6-1 G), two players who did play a lot of minutes last season. Sapp is an interior presence, particularly defensively and on the offensive glass, while Marino is a plus athlete who can shoot well from the perimeter.
Other seniors in the mix for extensive varsity minutes include seniors Kiyel Flanders (5-10 G), Donald Hatcher (6-4 F), Sean Gill (6-0 F) and Ronnie Jackson (5-11 G), a transfer who was a major contributor at Lower Cape May last season.
Juniors expected to see time include Charlie McNeal (5-9 G), John Leahy (6-5 F) and Dom Caraballo (5-9 G).
Young players who could eventually move into the varsity include sophomores Gavin Aftanis (6-4 F), Owen Hall (6-0 G) and Ben Harris (5-11 G) and freshman Billy Murphy (5-9 G).
“One of the things we need to do is develop guard play,” Feraco said. “It’s one of the key aspects of what we want to do. If you can do that early in the year then you can always compete.”
Middle finished 9-16 a season ago. The goals now are to try to have a winning season, qualify for the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament out of the United Conference and win at least one state playoff game.
“I don’t know the league like I used to,” Feraco said. “But we’d like to maybe have home state playoff game and get a win and qualify for the CAL tournament.”
Feraco is assisted by Andy Ludman, LaMarr Greer, Rewi Thompson and Tom Feraco Jr.