By BRIAN CUNNIFF
The Middle Township High School boys basketball program has a tradition of being one of the very best in the Cape-Atlantic League.
The Panthers have fallen from that lofty pedestal a bit in recent years.
One of the program’s all-time best is now tasked with bringing them back.
LaMarr Greer, once a state Player of the Year who led Middle to back-to-back state titles in 1993 and 1994, has returned to his alma mater as head coach. He has replaced Tom Feraco, who retired after a two-year second stint as head coach.
Greer appears to be taking over at the right time. Middle is loaded with talent in its underclasses, while also having a few key upperclassmen who will contribute as well.
“I like how competitive we are,” Greer said. “That was one of the things that surprised me when we got started, just their overall competitiveness.”
Middle had three freshmen see significant varsity time during the very short season earlier this year. Those players are each back and are expected to take a significant step forward. They include 5-9 guard Jermaine “Bubba” McNeil, 6-0 guard Anthony Trombetta and 6-1 guard Michael Zarfati.
Among the upperclassmen, seniors Gavin Aftanis (6-4 F), Ben Harris (5-11 G) and Matt Barcas (5-11 G) and juniors Bryan Rosario (5-9 G), Devon Bock (6-2 F), Juwan McKinnon (5-11 G) and Greg Hyrnoweski (5-9 G) should be in the rotation.
There are also some talented newcomers who will contribute. Sophomore Troy Billiris (6-2 F), a transfer from Wildwood Catholic, and freshmen Jahmir “Mearsy” McNeil (6-0 G) and Aydan Howell (5-10 G) are expected to make an impact.
Others vying for time include seniors Kevin Hernandez (6-0 G) and Tyler Roehmhild (6-3 F) and sophomore Isaih Carr-Wing (5-10 G/F).
If you’ve read this far, you may have notice the amount of guards that are in the program. And you probably get the impression that Middle will play a lot of kids in every game.
“We are guard oriented,” Greer said. “We have some good team speed, so we’ll have a lot of guards playing at the same time. I expect us to play fast, with a lot of pressure (on defense). A lot of guys are going to play.”
After a couple of what would be considered down seasons, Middle could be a sleeper in the CAL this season. The Panthers will compete in the American Conference with Wildwood Catholic, Cape May Tech, Ocean City, Absegami, Atlantic City and Bridgeton.
“I think we’re going to do well,” Greer said. “These kids have a very comeptitive nature. Our conference is hard. I think it’s tougher than people think. There are some good teams in there. We’re going to have to earn it.”
Greer has returned to his roots after a long basketball journey took him from Middle to Florida State and eventually to a productive overseas professional career. Since his playing days ended, he’s helped out at Middle and Camden as an assistant and has been a personal basketball trainer.
So he’s never left the game that has given him so much.
“It’s amazing to be back here,” Greer said. “I feel like all my experience got me ready for this.”
Middle opens the season Friday at Cape May Tech. The game will air live on 98.7 The Coast and CoastSportsToday.com. Game time is 5:30 p.m.
Greer has large group of assistant coaches. They include Brendan Norris, Ray Brown, Ben Green, Ryan Babnew, Van Cathcart, Charlie McNeal, Ray Brown Jr., Kyle Morinelli and LaMarr Greer Jr.