Tom Feraco, Tom Catanoso and Darrell Shelton grew up playing basketball together.
The three seniors are now the leaders of a Middle Township High School boys basketball team expected to challenge for the Cape-Atlantic League National Division and South Jersey Group II titles.
"There's a togetherness about these kids," said Middle coach Tom Feraco, the father of Tom Feraco the player. "They play hard. They have a competitive spirit that is second to none."
The Panthers finished 18-11 last season, losing in the CAL title game to Atlantic City and to Willingboro in South Jersey Group II semifinals.
The 6-foot-3 Feraco averaged 11.9 points, while the 5-10 Shelton and 6-0 Catanoso sank 44 and 42 3-pointers, respectively. Middle also returns LaMarr Greer, who averaged 6.1 points last season.
Middle will be undersized against some elite teams, but the Panthers are known for playing intelligently and being able to control the tempo of the game.
Middle will face one of the region's toughest schedules. Middle travels to Jersey City to play national power St. Anthony on Dec. 22. The Friars, coached by Hall of Famer Bob Hurley, have won 65 straight games.
Middle and St. Anthony met in the 1993 Tournament of Champions final with St. Anthony winning 84-59. Middle remains the only local boys to team to reach a TOC final.
"It's a once in a lifetime chance to get on a bus and go play a great team," Feraco said of the St. Anthony game.
Contact Michael McGarry:
League: Cape-Atlantic League National
Group: South Jersey Group II
Coach: Tom Feraco
Last season's record: 18-11
2012-13 prediction: Favorite - The Panthers, a perennial power, return enough talent to be among the favorites in both the CAL and South Jersey Group II.
Key players: Tom Feraco, Sr., F, 6-3; Darrell Shelton, Sr., G, 5-10; Tom Catanosa, Sr., G, 6-0; LaMarr Greer, Sr., F, 6-1; Ben Cowan, Sr., C, 6-4; Jalen Toney, Sr., G, 5-9; Trey Greer, So., G, 6-0; Tanner Kerr, Jr., F, 6-3; Steve Hand, Jr., F, 6-4; Micah Moore, Sr., F, 6-3.
Dec. 18 vs. St. Augustine Prep
Jan. 3 at Atlantic City
Jan. 12 at Holy Spirit
Jan. 25 at St. Augustine Prep