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THE GRIND: Lambert's Mitch Ganote dominates with smarts, feel for game

The GRIND: Mitch Ganote, Lambert High School Basketball

By: Bradley Wiseman

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Once you know Mitch Ganote’s story, everything makes sense.

Especially one particular play in the Lambert boys basketball team’s game on Nov. 19 against Peachtree Ridge. The Longhorns trailed by three points in the final seconds of regulation, and Ganote was at the free-throw line. He made the first shot, and his plan for the second followed traditional basketball wisdom: Miss intentionally, with the hope that a teammate would grab the rebound and get a quick putback.

The next sequence was straight out of a game of 21: Ganote missed, dashed to the exact spot where the ball fell, and put the shot up and in from a bizarre angle. The game went to overtime, and the Longhorns won 88-80, one of their most significant victories of the season so far.

It was a prime example of Ganote’s best attribute. Feel, IQ, instincts – whatever you call it, it’s what will jump out to any educated observer, and it’s a key reason for Ganote becoming one of the best guards in the state.

“We’re in a training world right now, (where) everybody needs a trainer, and Mitch is different,” Longhorns head coach Scott Bracco said. “Mitch grew up playing…and his flow in the game is unbelievable. His IQ is incredible. A lot of guys train 1 on 0, but he trained 5 on 5.”

Ganote’s father, Mike, played at the University of Georgia, and his brother, Matt, played at Lambert as well. And Mitch’s difference in age was no excuse for not playing with him: He’d be playing with his dad in pickup games at Lifetime Fitness when he was still in elementary school, and Mitch often played with his brother and his friends, as well. When Mitch scored his 1,000th point, Matt made a post on Instagram jokingly taking some credit for the accomplishment, due to “all the (butt)-kickings I gave you as a kid to make you tougher.”

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Lambert's Mitch Ganote rises for a shot during the Longhorns' game against Brookwood on Nov. 15, 2018 at Lambert High School. - photo by Ian Frazer
The brothers’ rivalry hasn’t dulled much with age, either.

“We can’t play 1-on-1 anymore,” Mitch said. “We’ll get in a fight. It’s guaranteed if we play right now.”

The 1,000-point mark was Mitch’s goal as soon as he started his career at Lambert, and his family had little doubt that he could get there. The points might be secondary, though, to Ganote’s role as one of the team’s unquestioned leaders, which he clearly held even as a junior last season.

“He’s been in my program, and he’s like one of my assistant coaches,” Bracco said. “So I trust (Mitch) because he’s been around me a lot, and he understands what we’re trying to do and the way we run the program.”

Mitch plans to play basketball in college right now, and he has multiple offers from Division II and III schools, with a few Division I programs in the mix as well. It isn’t the only sport he’s excelled in at Lambert, though. When Mitch was a sophomore, Lambert director of lacrosse Rich Wehman talked him into joining the Longhorns’ powerhouse program in that sport.

He didn’t play much that first season, but last year Mitch was a contributor as a defensive midfielder on one of the most dominant teams in county history in any sport, as Lambert went 22-0 and won a state title.

Lacrosse hasn’t necessarily changed Mitch as a basketball player, at least in Bracco’s eyes. But it’s also clear that his best qualities on the court could translate anywhere.

“Mitch is Mitch,” Bracco said. “He could play any sport. He could go out and be the quarterback of the football team right now, or the shortstop on the baseball team. He’s just a natural athlete.”