There's not much doing on the streets of Lebanon, Ind., on this wintry Friday night in late November. The town square is quiet, the restaurant at the Holiday Inn is empty. But there's action on the basketball court at the high school where the Lebanon Tigers are playing the Hammond Wildcats in the local school's first game of the 1986-87 season. The high school is the only place to be.
The center of attention is Rich Mount, 16, a blond sophomore, skinny as a cornstalk. He snags a rebound and heads upcourt. He fakes his man left and goes right. He pounds his last dribble and takes the ball up and launches a high-arching shot that falls through the rim clean. The crowd thunders its appreciation. Backpedaling, Rich shoots a glance at the sideline as if to say, "How about that? Could my dad have done it better?"
Rich's dad is Rick Mount, a three-time prep All-America at Lebanon, and the first male high school team athlete to appear on the cover of this magazine (Feb. 14, 1966). That was before he went on to be a three-time college All-America at Purdue. He was known as Rick the Rocket, the best pure shooter of a basketball who ever walked this earth. The Rocket is in the stands tonight. Rich looks up and finds him during a timeout. The father gives his son a clenched fist—that's my boy.
There are experts and judges sitting along the sideline tonight who have seen them both play, and they offer comparisons.
"Richie is a good high school player, but he's going to have to get bigger if he wants to be more than that," says Claude Wilson, 68, a real estate salesman who is one of the Downtown Coaches, the deans of the In crowd of Lebanon basketball. "Now, Rick, he had the most beautiful jump shot of anybody. Perfect mechanics."
Another of the sideline cognoscenti, Richard Green, a sales and service engineer, says, "The boy's got the shot but not the height, and he's slow-footed to boot. He doesn't have that quick first step his dad had."
Davey Koehler is 12 and, therefore, unprejudiced by the ancient exploits of Rick the Rocket. When asked who's the greatest Tiger of them all, Davey says, "Rich Mount, who else? He averages about 40 point per game."
Actually, Rich averaged precisely 17.1 as a freshman on the varsity last year. He always keeps a close eye on his stats. He keeps an eye on the top of his head, too. Rich is a shade under 6'3". His dad is 6'4". Rich thinks of being 6'4" the way other people think of having enormous wealth.
"Bill Hodges—he used to coach at Indiana State—said I'd be six-seven," Rich says. "A big guard. The doctor said six-five, six-four. I don't know. I take after my dad a lot...."
Tiger coach Jim Rosenstihl arrived in Lebanon in 1962 for the Rocket's freshman year, and he retired from coaching this past October. In those 24 years he made Lebanon a power, and in 1984 he was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He coached Rick throughout high school and he coached Rich in his freshman year, but Rosenstihl tries to soften and deflect comparisons between father and son. "Richie does not have great foot speed, but he's got a lot of court savvy," Rosenstihl says. "Very few kids his age have played as much basketball as he has. He and his dad have played a lot together, and that's an advantage for him. Will he be as good as his dad? Rick wants him to be. I've told Rick not to expect so much. People ask that question a lot and my answer is, he doesn't have to be as good as his dad to be a hell of a player."