FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --"In my opinion Jesse was a warrior, loved competition, the bigger the game, the more he loved to play." Selma High basketball coach Mike Pallesi speaks fondly when talking about his former player Jesse Lujan who was tragically killed in a car crash in July 2011.
"I fell in love with his ability and competitive nature to win. Winning meant everything to him, as far as he would do whatever it took to win within the framework of the game," Pallesi said. Jesse excelled in many sports but his true passion was basketball and in the second season following his death, his teammates rallied to win the first annual Jesse Lujan Memorial Tournament.
"It was in memory of him, playing him the whole tournament we played for him. It definitely pushed us to the next level. It was an honor to actually win the tournament and our slogan was all for one, meaning we were playing all for him," said former teammate Joseph Pena.
This tournament represents more than just basketball, it helps fund the futures of players who earn a scholarship in Jesse's name.
"When I talked to the Lujan family, we came up with the idea to try and keep Jesse's memory alive and give maybe somebody else that opportunity to pay for their books or something to keep Jesse's memory alive in that aspect through basketball and education,"said Pallesi. Pena added, "Even though he's not here, he's definitely here helping us in any way he can. The scholarship in his name it's helping me go to school, further my education, better my life."
As all great leaders do, Lujan has made a lasting impacting that goes well beyond wins and losses.