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BOYS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Mitch Ganote, Lambert
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Lambert junior guard Mitch Ganote is the 2017-18 All-FCN Boys Basketball Player of the Year. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

High-level basketball is in Mitch Ganote’s family: His father, Mike, played for the University of Georgia in the late 1980s.

In this case, though, the apple has rolled far away from the tree.

“He was more of a scorer,” Ganote said. “He wouldn't get a lot of assists like I did. He was kind of a ballhog.”

Ganote can certainly fill it up: He scored 29 points against North Forsyth in one game back in December and averaged 13 a game for Lambert this year. But his all-around game – his straight-line speed, sticky on-ball defense and crafty passing game – is what made the most impact, helping him amass four triple-doubles on the season and earn All-FCN County Player of the Year honors.

The Lambert junior is certainly sound in fundamentals – Longhorns head coach Scott Bracco wouldn’t have it any other way – but his upbringing in the sport was based mainly on games. Ganote played pickup with his father and his brother, Matt, and faced off with players much older and bigger.

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Lambert's Mitch Ganote looks to pass while pressured by South Forsyth's Devin McGlockton on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. - photo by Brian Paglia

“I was probably nine or eight years old when I started playing against high schoolers,” Ganote said. “So you've got to think faster, and you've got to make quicker decisions.”

That pace is evident in most aspects of Ganote’s game. He’s faster with the ball than many players are without it, and his speed was an ideal fit for Lambert’s transition-based offense and press-heavy defense.

Ganote could consistently get to the rack and was capable with the jump shot, but he was just as valuable for the defensive attention he commanded, which freed up space for the Longhorns’ senior wing trio of Jordan McIlwain, Austin Deckard and Damon Stoudamire.

“Having the great shooters that we had, it made it easy on me,” Ganote said.

Ganote’s motor and head-down way of playing earned him the reputation throughout the county as a player you love to see play but hate to play against. He wants to continue his basketball career in college – he currently holds an offer from Spring Hill, a Division II school in Mobile – and while he would like to go to a Division I school, Ganote just wants to play somewhere.

No matter where he ends up, Ganote has already established himself as his own player, one who was influenced by his father but eventually went his own way.

“He wanted to (impress) things on me that he never did,” Ganote said. “When we were playing pickup and stuff, he would always just say, if you don't have a shot immediately, just pass it. There's no need to hold the ball. Be unselfish.”