Coach Tom Feraco of the Middle Township High School boys basketball team will make his public return from successful cancer surgery to the team tonight.
It could not come in a more appropriate setting.
Middle Township (7-7) will play Cherry Hill West at 7:30 in a Shoot Down Cancer Classic game at St. Augustine Prep. The Classic benefits the Shoot Down Cancer Foundation, which raises money for the oncology division of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Feraco, 55, underwent surgery for prostate cancer Jan. 8 at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.
"The pathology report came back (clean), and I'm cancer free," Feraco said Friday morning. "I'm not coming in with the energy I need. I'll do whatever I can to help our school and our players."
Feraco credited his urologist, Dr. Gene Braga, for helping detect the cancer at an early stage. Feraco's cancer was diagnosed when his PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen blood test) was high.
"It was his persistence on getting me to get my blood work done that helped me," Feraco said. "I don't know if it saved me, but if I didn't have Dr. Braga, I'd be in a worse place."
With a 677-226 record in his 33 seasons, Feraco is one of the winningest coaches in the history of New Jersey high school boys basketball. Since his surgery, he's been to some practices and watched some games from behind the scenes.
Feraco plans to sit on the bench tonight. Longtime assistant Rewi Thompson will serve as the head coach, as he did throughout Feraco's absence.
"I have to sit for a couple of games," Feraco said. "I hope to start (coaching again) for the last eight or nine games."
Feraco's return adds even more luster to the Classic.
"It will be great to see him," said Classic founder and former longtime St. Augustine assistant Dave Catalana. "Having him come back from his battle at our event is great."
The event features 12 games played today and Sunday. Two games today - Atlantic City vs. Camden at 2:45 p.m. and Holy Spirit vs. St. Augustine Prep at 6 p.m. - highlight the schedule.
The event began in 2001. It was known as the Olympic-Cape Challenge and matched teams from the Olympic Conference against their against their Cape-Atlantic League counterparts.
Catalana decided to give the event a reboot this year and invite teams from other conferences to participate. That change allowed him to match St. Augustine (15-1) against Holy Spirit (13-4) in a much-anticipated game.
"We've had teams from other conferences that have asked about coming in and playing," Catalana said, "and realistically we weren't getting some of the top teams in the Olympic Conference. We've had a lot of teams show interest or next year. We're still devoted to the cause, and whatever we can raise is going to a really good cause."
Dave and wife Beth Catalana formed the Shoot Down Cancer Foundation in 1998. Their son Garrett was their inspiration. He was diagnosed with cancer as a 15-month-old in 1995. He has been in remission since May 1996. Garrett, now 19, graduated from St. Augustine last spring and is a freshman at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.
"Garrett is my son (Tom's) age," Feraco said. "We've always had a lot of respect for Dave and his father (Carmine, who died in 2011). Garrett's news rocked St. Augustine and hit home with us at Middle because Dave is a gentleman. I'm privileged to go back on this day."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Tickets $6 for adults and $4 for students and senior citizens. Tickets include admission to all that day's games.
10 a.m. - EHT vs. Timber Creek
11:30 a.m. - Washington Township vs. Ocean City
1:15 p.m. - Cherry Hill East vs. Millville
2:45 p.m. - Atlantic City vs. Camden
4:30 p.m. - Camden Catholic vs. Delsea Regional
6 p.m. - St. Augustine vs. Holy Spirit
7:30 p.m. - Cherry Hill West vs. Middle Township
11 a.m. - Cedar Creek vs. Seneca
12:30 p.m. - Winslow Township vs. Bridgeton
2:15 p.m. - Pleasantville vs. Williamstown
3:45 p.m. - Eastern vs. St. Joseph
5:30 p.m. - Wildwood Catholic vs. Cherokee