Not one person on the Casa Grande High School varsity basketball team ever went to school with Brett Callan, but by the end of this weekend's basketball tournament, they will all know about Brett Callan and why they are playing in the tournament that carries his name.

They will know about his zest for life, his determination, his work ethic and his love of basketball. They will also know about his death at age 17 and why it is important that that tragic end to a promising life is an important part of the Brett Callan story.

They will know about the life and death of Brett Callan because his father, L.J.; mother, Julie; and sister, Heather, will tell them. The family will visit the lockerroom of every team in the tournament sharing their story of love and loss.

I write this column each year just before the tournament not to dredge up painful memories or old hurts, but to help the Callans deliver their message, to keep alive the memory of their son and share his love of the game of basketball.

Brett Callan died because an inexperienced driver was going way too fast on a dangerous road. The avoidable crash not only took the life of his best friend, but caused indescribable grief to the driver, the two other passengers in the car, the Callan family and the whole Casa Grande community.

The key word is "avoidable." Brett Callan's life need not have ended a few days after that warm spring night, but not only his life, but his tragic death will have meaning if just one young person understands that cars can be dangerous — even deadly.

Speeding, what we euphemistically call "distracted driving," and all other forms of inattention have consequences. Teenagers are not immortal. They are as vulnerable as their parents and grandparents. And, they don't live in a vacuum. Their actions can impact the lives of all around them.

It is a powerful message the Callan family drives home not so much by their zeal as by their honesty and sincerity. When the kids hear the story and watch the faces of people who have lived the tragedy of loss, it makes a powerful point.

Loss hurts, senseless loss hurts more.

While legislators debate gun control in the wake of the Connecticut mass murder of school children, we might lose sight of the irrefutable fact that vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for Americans between 15 and 20 years of age. About 5,000 teenagers die each year in vehicle crashes. Close to 10 percent of those fatalities are in California.

The numbers, while sobering, don't really tell the story — the Callans do.

The other part of the story is that the tournament allows students to remember who Brett Callan was. As years go by, tournament names become irrelevant. We just know the events are named for someone important.

Brett Callan was important not because he was an administrator, a principal or some other school leader, but because he was a fine young man who loved life and loved basketball.

Brett Callan was a gifted athlete who could have excelled at any sport. He chose basketball and worked hard to be good at the game.

He was a coach's dream. The kind of player who not only listened, but understood the game, and worked hard to make himself and his team better.

The forever 17-year-old has a tournament named in his honor, and each year we use that tournament to remember.

Those who knew Brett Callan know that he would dearly love to be on the court with the Guachos this weekend. They also know he will be there in spirit.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackso@arguscourier.com)