Hapoel Jerusalem welcomes Bandirma to the Arena Tuesday night at 19:30 for a Gameday 8 Champions League clash. The Reds are sitting at 5-2 and in first place in their group, while the Turkish squad find themselves with a record of 3-4 good for 6th place in a highly competitive group. Reds small forward Trent Lockett travelled to the United States due to personal reasons and will miss the matchup against Bandirma with no date set as to when he will return.
One of the players who has starred for Hakan Demir’s team is Omar Prewitt who is in his first season with the club and is averaging 16.7 points per game in European play. After graduating from William & Mary in 2017 Prewitt began his professional journey which led him to Lithuania, Greece, Poland and finally to Turkey.
“Playing for Bandirma so far has afforded me the chance to play top level competition. We beat a Euroleague finalist in EFES for my first ever win over a Euroleague team. One of the good parts of the league and our team is that you are expected to go into every matchup and give them a good game. It’s nice to go into a game and be able to compete.”
Prewitt comes from a sports family. His mother Lea (Wise) Prewitt was enshrined in the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame after starring at the University of Kentucky as an All-Southeastern Conference guard, “I grew up in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, a small town about 30 minutes from Lexington. My mom coached me and my sisters. My dad was a quarterback in school, but when it comes to basketball that’s my mother’s department. But he’s good rebounder when I am shooting.”
“My parents never forced any sport on me and I played all kinds of sports, baseball, football and I swam as well. They wanted to make sure I was active and doing something but they never pushed me towards anything. However, they wanted me to excel at whatever I was doing.”
Omar’s mother also went on to coach Centre College’s Women’s basketball team to their first ever NCAA Division III appearance while also taking the squad to the Final Four as well. With that in mind, Lea made an impact on her son’s basketball skills, “I like to play the 3 as I’m 6”7 but I can play any guard spot. My mom stressed that every player had to be able to dribble with both hands so I did a lot of dribbling skills. I worked a lot of the time on my guard play which was the position my mother played.”
Family is key for Prewitt as they are a very tight knit group. In fact, Prewitt’s parents are will be at Tuesday’s game against Jerusalem and were in France last week for Bandrima’s Champions League clash versus EB Pau-Lacq-Orthez where they saw Omar score 11 points in a 96-76 win. From Israel, his family will continue on to Turkey to watch the 25 year old, “I have two sisters, one is in married in China and will be having a child while my other sister lives in Austin, Texas and just got engaged. I love basketball but for me, family comes first.”
While most children growing up idolize the top NBA players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, Prewitt was influenced by a college star at the time who went on to play in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves, “Robbie Hummel was the player I looked up to. I was a Purdue Boilermaker fan, they had a good team with JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummel who was arguably their best player. I really enjoyed watching him. I have his signed jersey on my wall and I convinced my mom one time to take me to see him at a Purdue camp.”
After starring for Montgomery County High School where he averaged 23 points per game in his senior year, Prewitt received his first Division I offer from William & Mary, “When I went out for a visit I felt very comfortable. I knew it wasn’t a big school, but I wanted to play my freshman year. Luckily I was able to go in and make an immediate impact.”
While at W&M, Prewitt averaged 14.5 points, 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, “We made it to the NIT my junior year and we also had the opportunity to play teams like Duke and North Carolina. We did beat North Carolina State on the road, but that was the lone upset. It’s always nice to go to a place where you’re not expected to win and do it. It’s a great feeling for sure.”
David Cohn who currently plays for Maccabi Haifa is in his second season in Israel after playing with Hapoel Eilat last year is a very close friend of Prewitt’s, “We talk everyday and he’s one of my best friends. He was my college roommate for two years and we lived in the same house another year after that. He was my point guard as well. I went to Chicago and we hung out this summer as well.”
Another one of Prewitt’s former college teammates, Marcus Thornton paved the way for his arrival at Bandirma after playing for the team last season, “I watched his games last year and I made sure to talk to him before I came here. He said that it was a well-run organization and that’s exactly what it’s been.”
All of the players on the Bandirma squad have a common goal and want to show that thy derive to be at the next level, “That’s the motivation for everyone, winning but not self-achievements. If we can do that as well as play tough defense that the coach stresses, then we will be in good shape. When you have five guys buying in on defense, you are going to win a lot of ball games.”
Prewitt wants to continue to improve and advance in his basketball career and as of now there is no reason to doubt he won’t be able to achieve his goals, “Everyone wants to move up in their basketball career. For me I came from the Polish league and this is a step up. I want to play at the highest level and I would love to play in the Euroleague one day. My goal is to keep moving up. I’m looked at as an offensive player and get my shot off and I shoot 3-pointers as well. I’m a solid rebounder, tall and can guard multiple positions.”
While every basketball player aspires to reach the NBA, very few actually make it to the promised land. However, Prewitt believes he knows what is needed to be able to play in the world’s best league, “The NBA is a very specific type of game and you have to be an expert at one aspect. To reach that level I would have to work on my body due to the one on one play. Offensively I believe that I can take my game to that level.”
Now Prewitt continues his professional journey with a stop in Israel where his Bandirma side will tip off against Hapoel Jerusalem, “If we keep playing our game we will be fine. Jerusalem is a good team. If we can get a win there it’s like a steal. We have to play our game and play even better than that. We are a team and play as a team and we don’t have just one guy, we have numerous players who are capable of getting 20 on any given night.”