NHSI preview: Montrose Christian

Team: No. 2 seed Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.)

Record, FAB 50 Rank: 20-2, No. 9 (No. 4 in the East)

Head Coach: Stu Vetter (13th year at school, 301-41 record; 36-year career, four schools, 858-107 record)

Key Players:

Justin Anderson

The 6-foot-7, 220-pound senior forward is capping his four-year Mustang career with a chance to repeat as an NHSI champion. Vetter describes him as a "winner" since he has played the last two years on teams with only three losses by a total of six points. The University of Virginia recruit is ranked No. 55 in the ESPNU 100 and has surpassed the 1,000 point mark for his career. "He's improved each year on both ends of the court and is an amazing athlete, maybe the best I've coached and I've had some good ones," says Vetter. "He not only jumps high, but with power." This season, Anderson averages a team-best 18 points a game. He shoots over 70 percent both from the floor and free throw line.

Michael Carrera

A three-year Montrose veteran, the 6-foot-6 senior forward is the team's top rebounder (10.2) and second-leading scorer (13 ppg.). "Michael is one of six seniors who provide leadership to the team," Vetter says. "He's steady and consistent and makes plays. He's a rock under the basket and has been a big part of our success the last couple of years. He's gotten stronger and can match up with a lot of opponents." Carrera does more than turn in double-doubles, as he's also makes big defensive plays when the Mustangs need them and provides an emotional spark.

Ishmail Wainwright

Vetter labels this 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward "one of the best juniors in the country. He can play all five positions." Rated No. 27 in the ESPNU 60, Wainwright is one of the better passing forwards around with a team-best 8.2 assists per game. He also averages eight points and 2.9 steals a game. "He makes everyone better," Vetter notes. The touted underclassman has several college offers including UCLA, Kansas and Duke.

Road to NHSI:

The defending NHSI champion started the season ranked No. 4 in the FAB 50 and has only faltered twice — both by two points. The Mustangs bowed to host Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) by 42-40 in mid-December before competing in the Iolani Holiday Classic in Honolulu, a regular stop in recent seasons.

At that event, the Mustangs defeated two teams who have been nationally ranked this season — Westbury Christian (Houston, Texas) and current FAB 50 No. 28 Orlando Christian Prep (Orlando, Fla.). Marcus, ranked No. 5 in the FAB 50, ended its season with a 39-2 record and repeat Texas championship.

The other Mustang loss came on Jan. 26 when District of Columbia champion and NHSI participate Coolidge scored a 51-49 win. Otherwise, it was business as usual for Montrose and its talented cast of cagers.

Inside Scoop:

It all starts with Anderson. "We go as he goes," Vetter offers. "He's our four-year veteran and plays like it." Vetter rotates a lot of players but starts Anderson, Carrera, Wainwright, 5-foot-8 four-year veteran point guard Yuki Togashi, and one of three players: 6-foot-10, 240-pound senior Kevin Larsen, 6-foot-6 senior Cedric Blossom or 6-foot-2 sophomore Kevin Zabo.

Larsen averages eight points and 7.4 rebounds, Blossom five points and 5.6 rebounds, and Zabo six points and 3.8 assists. In last season's NHSI championship win over Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), Larsen played well off the bench.

"We're a deeper, stronger team than last year," Vetter says. "Eight of our 12 players were in the NHSI last season and the kids look forward to competing again for a national title. It's a great experience and one of our team goals each year to compete in the event. It's a chance to compete against the best and great for high school basketball. This year's field could be the best, top to bottom, in the four years. There's no easy games and all will be a battle. The TV exposure makes it special and some players not playing in it probably are envious of the ones competing."