By high school standards — well, by most high school standards — a 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior built like a middle linebacker would be a force for coaches to generally relegated to the post. Well, Montrose Christian isn’t most high schools, and Ishmail Wainright isn’t in any way, aside from age, like most high schoolers.
The Baylor University recruit played everything from point guard to small forward to lockdown defender and post player in Saturday’s matchup with Friendship Collegiate to lead his top-ranked Mustangs to a 53-50 overtime win in the Presidential Hoopfest at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville.
“Just about anybody can beat anybody at this level,” coach Stu Vetter said. “We’re really happy with the win. I thought we executed and did what we had to.”
Wainright finished with 12 points in the win for Montrose, which is ranked eighth in the country by MaxPreps, four points behind the game’s Most Valuable Player, Mark Williams, a 6-foot-8 senior transfer from Cleveland Benedictine. A facilitator by nature, Wainright has a pass-first, shoot-second mentality — reflected by the fact that he only took 11 shots — that often earns him a little grief from his teammates.
“They get mad at me every game because I just pass the ball,” said Wainright, who finished 6-for-11 from the field. “But it’s just something I like to do.”
But, as much as his teammates might push him to shoot a little more, it’s his teammates who benefit the most from his unselfish tendencies. In the second quarter, Wainright had an open look for 3-pointer off an inbounds pass but held it, waiting for a higher-percentage shot, and within seconds one materialized. He tossed an effortless lob to a void near the left side of the rim and then Therence Mayimba was there, cradling the ball with both hands and slamming home a gift-wrapped alley-oop.
“I don’t have [a position],” Wainright said. “I’ll play one, two, three, four, five.”
With the tools at his disposal — center’s height, point guard vision, a small forward’s touch — Wainright possesses the ability to take over games in virtually every dimension possible. During the third quarter, he grabbed the ball right off the hands of a Friendship guard, took on two defenders on the break and powered past both of them through the lane for a dunk. Two possessions later he took a feed in the post, drop-stepped with enough force to knock his defender on his back and throw down a two-handed dunk.
“Ish is one of those guys that does whatever you need to do to win,” Vetter said. “He’s a great facilitator, that’s what he likes to be known as is a facilitator. When he came to Montrose a couple years ago I asked him what position he played and he said ‘Coach, I’m just a facilitator.’ He’s a player who makes everyone around him better and we try to keep the ball in his hands as much as we can.”
Wainright’s biggest contribution, however, may have come at the end of regulation, when he face-guarded Friendship’s Byron Ashe, who had scored 20 points leading up to the final possession of the game. His pressure forced an errant pass directed at Ashe and it went sailing out of bounds, nullifying any chances of a regulation win for Friendship.
In overtime, Montrose would knock down 7-of-8 free throws and Wainright would add the only Mustang field goal to seal the deal for Montrose, its sixth straight win.
“He has one of the highest basketball IQs out of any kid I’ve ever coached, and that’s a compliment going back to [Kevin] Durant and some of those guys, they have pretty high IQs, [Greivis] Vasquez, that’s a high IQ,” Vetter said. “That’s the caliber player he is as far as basketball savvy.”
Montrose Christian 53, Friendship Collegiate 50
Montrose (17-4; 0-0): 12 11 16 5 9—53
Friendship (14-11; 4-7): 12 11 13 8 6—50