By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
In more ways than one, Josh Ganoe stands out at James Monroe High School.
The 6-foot-8 center on the Mavericks basketball team is the tallest student in the county’s only public school, but his physical height is only part of the story.
Academically, he is in the top five of his senior class. He said about his grade point average, “If it’s not a 4.0, it’s like a 3.99.” He scored a 27 on the ACT (American College Test), which he said leaves “plenty of room for improvement, but if I go in-state for college I’m eligible for Promise (Scholarship money).”
In July, as part of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he will embark on a two-year mission trip to help some community at a still-to-be-revealed location.
He is a quiet leader as a senior on the basketball team, said his coach, Jonathan McPherson.
“He always has a positive attitude,” McPherson said. “He’s one you can depend on.”
“Being a senior, he does have good leadership skills as well. When he picked his game up, his teammates tend to follow. He leads by example.”
Ganoe has dealt with several minor injuries during his three-year high school hoops career, including an ankle he twisted last week, but he wants to help his team, which enters sectional tournament play next week.
Ganoe, who lives just outside Peterstown, said that combining academics and athletics is “definitely a challenge. We practice every day (and have) since November. I’m taking three AP (Advanced Placement) courses.
“You get home every night (about) 7 o’clock. By the time you take a shower, eat dinner, all that good stuff, it’s 8 o’clock. I have basically three college classes to catch up on. Maintaining an A in those classes has been very difficult.”
“But it’s just like anything else. Academics takes practice; you have to study, and put forth effort. Academics has always been a priority of mine. Ever since, I guess, kindergarten, it’s been important to me.”
McPherson said, “That shows that his priorities are where they need to be. He’s a student-athlete, with the student part first.”
Ganoe said he’s always been tall, but he’s not self-conscious about it. “It’s always been a part of me, a part of who I am. I just accept it, I guess,” he said.
His paternal grandfather and uncle Mark Grigsby, who played basketball at Division II VMI, are both 6-foot-4, Ganoe said. His father, Brian Ganoe, grew up in Kentucky but graduated from Princeton Senior High School. At 6-foot-1, his father was more of a baseball player, Ganoe said, though he played some hoops recreationally, too.
Although Josh had height, and had played basketball from an early age until eighth grade, he gave up the sport when he reached ninth grade.
“I wanted to concentrate more on academics, and make sure that I had As in all my classes, my freshman year,” he said.
“Then several of my friends who are also on the team were like, ‘Dude, you need to play. We need you!’ That’s really when I got back into basketball, was my sophomore year.”
Because of the year away, he said, “I definitely felt the effects. To me, I was disappointing to myself on the court. My skills definitely (have) improved since then. There’s a big difference from the player that I am today (compared to) when I got back into it three years ago.”
His teammates helped him with that improvement, he said.
“We’re always pushing each other in practice,” Ganoe said. “Several times we’ve stayed, me and the point guard and a few others, we would stay after practice and work on certain plays and things like that, just to try to help our senior year go better.”
He went through a couple of head-coaching changes during his 10th grade year, and then McPherson settled into the job a little more than two years ago.
Ganoe said, “When we got Coach Mac, he knew the direction he wanted to take our program in and he’s done a very good job in doing that. It was quite a change, but I believe it was a change for the better.”
The coach had no problem figuring out ways to use a 6-8 center. Ganoe said, “We have several plays that are designed to go inside. A couple of them, I just screen my man and flash, ball-side. One thing we’ve concentrated on a lot this year is ball screens, getting that pick-and-roll action, and that has proved pretty successful.”
On the defensive end, he said, “It’s always fun to block a few shots.”
He is already getting energized by his life after high school basketball, beginning with his mission service.
“It’s really exciting,” Ganoe said. “I actually find out where I go on a mission about this time next month. I could be sent to, basically, anywhere in the world. Many people learn a different language; of course, you learn the language of the place that you go to.”
“It’s really a good opportunity to help serve people, and to teach people about Jesus Christ.”
He said if he could choose where he would reside during the mission experience, “It would probably be Australia, or somewhere in Africa. I think that would be really neat.”
He said, “When I get back, I’m really leaning toward veterinary medicine, so I’m going to be attaining a major in biology and a minor in pre-med. I really want to go to BYU, either BYU or the University of Kentucky, possibly.”
For his professional training after his undergraduate studies, he said, “I’m really interested in the Virginia-Maryland Vet School, which is located on the Virginia Tech campus.”
The interest in veterinary work comes naturally. “I basically grew up on a farm,” he said. “Both sides of the family have farms. Animals have always been part of my life.”
That fits right in with rural Monroe County. He feels he has fit right in at James Monroe, where he believes he has benefited from the academic environment.
“There’s not a lot of students,” he said. “In most of my AP classes, most of all of my classes, there’s really a low student-teacher ratio.”
“It’s good to grow up in an environment like this, because you get closer to your classmates and to your teachers, and then whenever you need help, you know you can always go to them ... .”
McPherson said, “We’re very proud of him here — and we’re even going to be proud of him in the future, with everything he’s going to accomplish.”
— Contact Tom Bone firstname.lastname@example.org