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One thing you can count on every winter in Montgomery County is the reloading of the Montrose Christian boys basketball team through the arrival of talented transfers.

This year’s transfers who are likely to have an effect are Ishmail Wainwright and Kevin Zabo.

Their decision to leave their home states of Missouri and Massachusetts, respectively, after successful 2010-11 campaigns, plus the return of seven players from last year’s national tournament championship team has Montrose ranked nationally in the top five by ESPN (No. 4) and the USA Today (No. 5).

“Both Ishmail and Kevin are great additions to our basketball program,” Mustangs coach Stu Vetter said. “They’re outstanding students and outstanding kids. They’re going to be great basketball players. They bring a sense of team; they’re unselfish and have blended very well to a team that is already very talented.”

Wainwright came to Montrose via Raytown High School in Raytown, Mo., where he led the Cardinals to a 20-6 record while averaging 13.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game a year ago.

He first learned of the program while meeting some of the Montrose Christian staff at the 2009 Fab Frosh All American Camp at the University of Kentucky.

“Coming here is a big step for me and … my family,” Wainwright said. “I left home and I have no family out here. Coach Vetter, to me, I think he’s a legendary coach because of all the former players [including current NBA players Kevin Durant and Greivis Vasquez] he’s coached. That drew me because I know he can take me to the next level.”

What the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Wainwright brings is a sculpted body — although he admitted this is the first year he has lifted weights — and a versatile game that has drawn him interest from numerous major Division I college programs, including Kansas, St. John’s (N.Y.), Syracuse (N.Y.), UCLA, Louisville (Ky.), West Virginia and Missouri.

“The nice thing about Ishmail is he can play all five positions,” Vetter said. “He can bring the ball down the court and he’s strong enough to post up inside. His versatility is his strength and he makes other players around him better. He loves to pass the ball and he’s an outstanding defensive player.”

Zabo began his high school career at St. Mark’s in Massachusetts last winter, helping to lead that squad to the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class AA finals before falling to three-time defending champion Tilton (N.H.).

The Lions recorded a 28-3 record and Zabo, a 6-2 point guard, contributed 12 points per game for the season. He produced 19 points and 10 assists in the team’s 67-47 semifinal win against The Roxbury Latin School (Mass.).

“Kevin brings some experience as well as youth — a rare combination,” Vetter said. “He was the starting point guard as a freshman last year. He has good size and he can shoot the ball. Being only a sophomore, he’ll solidify the point guard spot for the next three years. He’s unselfish and he can score if necessary. He’s a real pleasure to coach.”

Zabo originally hails from Quebec, Canada, where he plays for the CIA Bounce, a prestigious AAU squad, It’s through that team and the coach’s discussions with the Montrose Christian staff that eventually led Zabo to move farther south down the East Coast this year.

“I had heard about Montrose because they had won the national championship so I thought it was a good opportunity for me,” Zabo said. “I had a visit with my dad. I talked with my family. We thought it was best decision for me to come here. I’ve already learned so much from [Coach Vetter] and the season hasn’t even started.”

The Mustangs opened the season this weekend with blowout wins of 65-23 against Hayfield (Va.) Friday and then 92-49 against Woodbridge (Va.) Saturday.

jpeters@gazette.net