As an eighth grader, he led the Texas Titans to their third straight Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) National Championship. As a freshman at Sharyland, he was named the Valley’s Newcomer of the Year and he led the district in scoring. As a sophomore, he was given a full scholarship to attend Blair Academy in New Jersey and play basketball for the Bucs. And now as a junior he’s back at Sharyland and playing for the Rattlers once again. His name is Jesse Pistokache, and he is a game-changer on the basketball court.
With such an impressive background why did Pistokache choose to leave a prestigious private boarding school like Blair Academy and return to the Valley? That’s a question best answered by Teri Mata-Pistokache, Jesse’s mother.
“He used to play summer ball with an AAU team out of Dallas named the Texas Titans,” explained Mata-Pistokache. “When he moved to New Jersey he couldn’t continue to be on that team because of the distance between Dallas and New Jersey and because of the fact that at that school he had classes on Saturdays. He did join an Under Armour team but when his coach and mentor Roshown McLeod left the team to move back to Atlanta, Jesse was left without a team.”
“We then struggled finding him another team on the East Coast,” added Mata – Pistokache. “But the Houston Hoops, a Nike team that had pursued Jesse since he was a little kid, wanted him to play on their team. Knowing that if he were to come home he could play for the Rattlers and the Hoops, he decided that was what he wanted to do.”
Upon his return to Sharyland, Pistokache’s first on-the-court action was against the Edinburg Vela Sabercats January 3. With Jesse having to sit out the first half of the game while Sharyland Athletic Director Richard Thompson verified his eligibility, the Sabercats led 32-24 at the intermission. Pistokache, however, was cleared to play as the second half began and with him leading the way the Rattlers outscored Vela 37-29 in the third and fourth quarters to tie the score at 61 at the end of regulation. While Vela went on to win by a score of 82-79 in triple overtime, Pistokache’s 29 points in two quarters and three overtime periods of play made him the top scorer for either team on the night.
During Jesse’s freshman year with the Rattlers he played alongside his older brother Quino, who was a senior at the time. It is Quino’s belief that his and his brother’s success can be attributed to their parents’ support and to the sibling rivalry he and Jesse developed over the years.
“Our parents are a huge component of our success on and off the basketball court,” shared the elder Pistokache. “They’ve always been supportive and they’ve always encouraged us. But a key factor to our success on the court is the way Jesse and I have always competed against one another. We’ve always had someone to work out with and we’ve pushed one another to get better. For him as the younger brother having to go up against me as his older brother has been huge.”
As for how Jesse himself feels about his return to Sharyland High School and to the Rattlers’ team, it’s been a coming-home to the teammates and the coaches he’s known most of his life.
“It’s definitely a blessing for me to be back at Sharyland,” said the 6’4”, 190-pound point guard. “I grew up here and I’ve known Coach [David] Keith since I was in the younger basketball camps and I remember how as a kid I would imagine myself in high school playing for the Rattlers. Coming back is kind of like a safe haven for me since I know all the players and I love all the coaches here.”
With Jesse’s return to the Rattlers’ roster, Sharyland has become the odds-on favorite to emerge as the 30-5A champions. While that is a goal that most other teams in the district would be thrilled to achieve, it is only a step towards the loftier goal Pistokache and his teammates have now set for this season.
“We want to do something no Valley team has ever done,” said Pistokache. “We want to beat the San Antonio teams in the playoffs and we eventually want to beat the Houston and the Dallas teams. We’ve been talking about having a different mindset than most Valley teams by not just settling for a district championship. Winning district is cool, but nobody remembers the district champion two years ago. Everybody, however, will remember the first Valley team to beat the San Antonio teams so that’s what we’re striving for.”