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Pistorius proving himself as Packers boys basketball leader

West Fargo Packers boys basketball player Joe Pistorius, left, struggles for the ball in a Jan. 2 game in West Fargo. David Samson / The Pioneer1 / 3
West Fargo Packers boys basketball player Joe Pistorius runs down the court in a Dec. 14 game in West Fargo. David Samson / The Pioneer2 / 3
West Fargo Packers boys basketball player Joe Pistorius jumps to pass in a Jan. 2 game in West Fargo. David Samson / The Pioneer3 / 3

Even in the depths of cold winters, Joe Pistorius wouldn't be stopped. He shoveled out his parents' driveway, put on his snow pants, picked up his basketball and would play his favorite sport for hours as a youth.

Pistorius has grown into a top scoring threat in the state as a senior guard for the West Fargo boys basketball team. He was a second-team all-state player after averaging 20 points and 3.3 rebounds per game a season ago. Pistorius broke the school's single-game scoring record last season as a junior with 43 points. This season, Pistorius is averaging 22 points, five assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Pistorius was raised on basketball. He started taking shots at his Little Tikes hoop so young that his mom cut the nets off so she wouldn't have to worry about him chocking on them. His earliest memories playing against his older brothers, who had their own successful careers in Packers athletics, was getting dunked on and crying to his parents. But Pistorius kept trying to prove he could beat his brother just a few years older than him.

"What are older brothers for other than to hurt you?" Pistorius said with a laugh. "It made me tough. I don't look tough, but I'm tough inside because of him."

Pistorius wanted to play travel basketball as a second grader and played against fourth graders just to be on a team. During one elementary league camp, Pistorius was moved up two grades and his team didn't win a game until the last game when Pistorius banked in his first game-winning shot from half court.

Pistorius doesn't remember all of his game-winning shots, but that one sticks with him.

Packers head coach Adam Palczewski remembers even nine years ago that Pistorius was a scorer. Pistorius would pass the ball around so everyone had a chance to shoot and felt valuable.

"Then when the game was close with a minute left," Palczewski said, "he would take over and go win his team the game."

Growing up together, Packers senior Tanner Zepeda never played basketball much with Pistorius, who was usually playing against older kids. Pistorius always had the talent, Zepeda said, but Pistorius was willing to work and develop more areas of his game.

Zepeda knew Pistorius would develop into the player he has considering how much he plays.

"I would always try to beat him, but I never could," Zepeda said. "He's always had that kind of talent, and he's just kept going and nobody has been able to catch him."

Pistorius worked his way into major varsity minutes as a sophomore. The end of that season was when Pistorius felt like he started heating up as a 3-point shooter.

Pistorius said a good shooter never looks at the stat sheet for the number of shots missed. He believes he's a real shooter, and shooters keep shooting until those shots go down.

"It's been my shot my whole life," Pistorius said of 3-pointers. "It was a little cooler than hitting it off the backboard for a layup every time. Shooting deep, it feels good when you make it and you get a little frustrated when you miss three in a row."

Pistorius proved himself a go-to scorer in his junior season. Now in high school, Zepeda said Pistorius hasn't changed much. Pistorius doesn't force shots, but rather racks up assists and has gotten better defensively.

Zepeda also said Pistorius has become the master of mesmerizing shots, too many for Zepeda to keep track of and some too great for comprehension.

"I don't know how he gets some of these things to go," Zepeda said. "He also has a great floater. I don't know how he does it. I've tried it."

Pistorius plays throughout the offseason in AAU except when he's played football in the falls. But Pistorius is competitive in anything, Zepeda said, even at video games or phone app games.

Basketball is no exception.

"Joe is always shooting. He's always been the one who's wanted to go play somewhere," Zepeda said. "He's always getting shots up. That's the biggest key."

Even now, Pistorius is competitive against his brothers. Pistorius always told his parents he would win a state basketball championship. Pistorius did win a state championship with the Packers football team. He says his brothers never got one.

"No, they ever won anything," Pistorius said with a smile. "They never won a state championship in anything. I already got one."

After his high school career, Pistorius badly wants to play college basketball. He's talked with Concordia College, Minnesota State-Moorhead and Minot State, but he's holding out for better scholarship offers.

Pistorius has made too many game-winning shots for him to remember. He has one more state championship than his brothers, who used to make him cry as a kid. He's played against older kids and beaten them in high school.

But Pistorius still wants to prove himself. He wants to prove he can help his basketball team to a state championship. He wants to prove he can play at the college level.

Pistorius still has more shots to take.

"It's just another year of proving I'm a college athlete and that I can compete at the next level," Pistorius said. "I just love basketball so much. I don't think I'll ever stop playing basketball."

Colton Pool

Pool is a reporter for The West Fargo Pioneer covering city sports and community news. He was the sports editor for The Dickinson Press covering Dickinson State athletics, high school athletics and Southwest Speedway. He graduated from North Dakota State with a degree in journalism and a minor in English. You can reach him by phone at 701-451-5715 or tweet him @CPoolReporter. 

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