When South Putnam High School Principal Kieth Puckett saw Greg Dean on the basketball court, he knew he was special.
Puckett coached the former Eagle for two seasons. He said the coaching staff brought Dean up to the varsity as a freshman after starting the 1995-96 season with a 1-4 mark.
"We had to bring him up and give him the ball (as a freshman)," Puckett said. "The other kids actually said, 'bring him up.'"
Puckett said the Eagles won 13 of their next 15 games with Dean manning the point.
Dean is now the head coach at Wes-Del High School in Gaston, a Class A school with close to 300 students.
His Warriors just won the Southern Wells Class A Sectional 54 title this weekend, defeating Liberty Christian, 64-56.
On Wednesday, the 1999 South Putnam graduate and 2003 Wabash College graduate said his veteran team has been preparing for this since the beginning of the season.
"I think the whole time our goal was to win the sectional," Dean said via telephone interview. "We knew we had the capability."
This is Dean's first season as a varsity coach and the Warriors are currently 16-5. They face Eminence in the first round of the Frankfort Regional, beginning at noon. The Eels defeated Lapel in overtime, 68-66, on Saturday to win the Lapel Sectional.
Dean's coaching career began as the freshmen basketball coach at Crawfordsville for the 2003-04 season. He then moved on as a varsity assistant with Loogootee and Danville. Dean was with Loogootee in 2005 when the Lions advanced to the state finals, falling to Lapel, a squad Wes-Del defeated on Feb. 20 this year, 53-48.
Dean replaced Brian Strong as coach at Wes-Del. Strong is now the school's athletic director.
He said the Warriors feature five seniors, three of which have contributed significantly. He added the squad starts two three-year juniors.
"Our goal was to get better every day," he said.
Wes-Del is a member of the White River Conference, which also features Shenandoah, Lapel, Eastern Hancock and Knightstown.
Shenandoah won the conference title this season at 4-0 while Wes-Del was second at 3-1. Lapel was third at 2-2 while Eastern Hancock finished fourth at 1-3 and Knightstown was fifth at 0-4.
In sectional competition, the Warriors knocked off Southern Wells, 64-46, before defeating Liberty Christian in the finals. Wes-Del's only setbacks this season included losses to Frankton, Shenandoah, Yorktown and two to Delta.
The squad is on a five-game winning streak heading into the Frankfort Regional, which will also feature Blue River Valley (19-4) facinf Lafayette Central Catholic (17-6) in Saturday's first game, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
Puckett said Dean was "born to coach."
"He is a rising star in Indiana basketball," Puckett said. "We feel like we've got one of the best young coaches around in Brian Gardner, but (Dean) has a basketball heritage. He has the pedigree."
Dean's father, Max, also coached basketball prior to coming to South Putnam to serving as an administrator.