MOUNT STERLING — When Happy Osborne made the surprising decision to leave college coaching after 32 years and take a high school job at Montgomery County last summer, he didn't have to introduce himself to Indians star Omar Prewitt.
They were already basketball acquaintances.
When Osborne was coaching at Georgetown College, he offered Prewitt a scholarship before his sophomore season. When Osborne left Georgetown to become an assistant at Tennessee Tech, he got the Golden Eagles to offer Prewitt a scholarship before his junior year.
So in a situation he couldn't have foreseen a few years ago, Osborne is already coaching Prewitt, and gaining a new appreciation for the player he simply calls "O."
"I've watched O play for a long time, and he just keeps getting better," Osborne said.
Last month Prewitt surpassed Billy Ray Fawns as Montgomery County's all-time leading scorer. He has 2,142 career points, and with 902 rebounds, he's on pace to break Fawns' school rebounding record of 972.
"O's gotten stronger, and his defense has improved," Osborne said. "What people miss is that he's a very good passer and an excellent, excellent rebounder."
Nobody overlooks Prewitt's offensive skills.
The slender 6-foot-6 senior, who has signed with William & Mary, can score in any number of ways — pumping in three-pointers (he has a school-record 301), driving and twisting his way to the rim, cashing free throws, and crashing the boards.
He credits his mother, former University of Kentucky star Lea Wise Prewitt, for nurturing his scoring ability at an early age.
"Mom always had me in the gym dribbling, so when I was young I could dribble around everybody and that made scoring a lot easier," Omar said.
His mom credits her son's overall development to the three head coaches he's had in four years at Montgomery County — Keith Griesser, Tony Wise, and now Osborne.
"Each one has given Omar something different, helped him in different ways," Lea said. "He's got a piece of each of them in his game."
"He's made it more of a college-type practice," Omar said. "But it's fun, too."
Mom will vouch for that.
'"Omar comes home from practice energetic and excited. Happy can be tough on the kids, but he also pats them on the back and acknowledges when they do something well. Not all coaches do that."
When Osborne took the Montgomery County job, he didn't realize he'd get the bonus of having Lea Wise Prewitt, who was also a successful coach at Centre College, helping with the team.
"We're blessed to have her," Osborne said. "She deserves a lot of credit for developing Montgomery County basketball, not only the women's program but the men's, too.
"Here's the bottom line: Who knows more about shooting — Happy Osborne or Lea Wise Prewitt? I can tell players the fundamentals, but she can show them the fundamentals.
I don't want to play her in a game of H.O.R.S.E.," Osborne said with a laugh.
Montgomery County, rated No. 16 in the state and 15-3 after beating Bourbon County 89-64 on Tuesday night, is the 10th Region favorite because Omar Prewitt has a strong supporting cast.
Darius Jones and Bryan Wallace are talented juniors with big upsides.
Jones is long and athletic and still awakening to his potential. "I'm trying every day to bring his personality out," Osborne sadi. "He needs to shoot the ball more."
Wallace, a transfer from Shelby County, is a two-guard capable of getting to the basket. "He's a very tough kid who's not missed a beat playing with a broken nose," Osborne said.
Senior point guard Tyler Jones, who moved in from Las Vegas, is terrific at setting up his teammates.
Chase Hall, a 6-3 sophomore, and 6-9 freshman Shelby Combs are the Indians' primary post players.
"We're good but we're not world-beaters," said Osborne, who objects to his Indians being called region favorites and names Bishop Brossart, Campbell County, Clark County, Scott, Harrison County, Mason County and Scott as worthy contenders.
If there's pressure on Osborne to get Montgomery County's boys to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since Coach Bart Rison and Fawns led them to Rupp Arena in 1995, he knows all about the post-season pressure-cooker. Remember, he led Georgetown to an NAIA national title in 1998.
For Prewitt, getting to the Sweet Sixteen is his prime motivation. "Going to watch it every year makes me want it worse," he said.
And there's also the matter of family (male) pride.
Omar's older sisters Maggie and Elizabeth made it to multiple state tournaments playing for Montgomery County, and his mom got to the Sweet Sixteen twice while starring at Lafayette.
Do the ladies lord that over Omar?
"Oh, yeah," he said.
On the other hand, Omar's dad, Omar Sr., who was best known as a star quarterback, never got out of the district in his basketball days at Mount Sterling High.
"So there's a little pressure on the guys in the family," Lea said with a laugh.