Former Mission athlete dies of apparent drowning

By Jeremy Balan

(Developing story)

Stafone Jackson, a member of Mission High School’s 2010 Academic Athletic Association championship boys basketball team, died on a camping trip of an apparent drowning Tuesday, according to Mission head coach Arnold Zelaya and the Mountain Democrat newspaper.

Stafone Jackson. (Photo courtesy of Jasenia Quintana-Lopez)

Jackson, a 20-year-old who was entering his second year at UC Riverside, was on a camping trip with friends at the Union Valley Reservoir in North El Dorado.

According to the Mountain Democrat report, Jackson’s friends called local authorities to report the possible drowning at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday. After initial search crews were unable to locate Jackson, his body was found roughly 150 feet offshore at 3:30 p.m.

“The swim was harder than they anticipated and after resting the group began swimming back,” El Dorado County sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Byers told Jim Ratajczak of the Mountain Democrat. “Approximately halfway back, Jackson began yelling for help and quickly sank before his friends could get to him.”

A two-year varsity football player and three-year varsity basketball player at Mission, Jackson was playing rugby UC Riverside. He graduated at the top of his class at Mission and was volunteering at the Aim High youth program for the past two summers.

“[It's] really tragic,” Zelaya said on Monday. “[He's] one of the greatest kids I’ve ever worked with. He was just an outstanding person.”

Update: According to multiple posts on Jackson’s Facebook page, his funeral will be at Little Zion Church at 1245 Divisadero Street in San Francisco on Aug. 12 at 11 a.m.

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9 Comments

  1. AAAfan says:

    Great player against wallenberg in the 2010 championship. What a great person too. Such a sad thing, Hearts go out to the Misson community

  2. Graham Betchart says:

    I coached basketball at Mission the last 7 years I coached Stafone all four years as Mission. He was without a doubt the greatest young man I have ever had the privilege of working with. We are going to miss him so much. He always had a positive attitude and life was just starting for him. He was the poster child of what we were trying to accomplish at Mission. Graduate kids and send them to college. He was a real star and a real hero to everyone who was lucky enough to be around him. He had the respect of everyone! The Mission family is hurting right now, real bad. Miss you Stafone, you will never be forgotten!

  3. D says:

    Gone but not forgotten, great teammate and a better person. Rest in peace

  4. Jessica Case says:

    I echo Coach Betchart’s comments. I was Stafone’s 8th grade English teacher. Stafone was part of an extraordinary group of young people in Everett’s Class of 2006. It is a testament to the wonderful person that he was that he maintained so many of his middle school friendships despite attending different high schools. Stafone was not afraid of life. He charged forth with confidence and passion, pushing himself to reach his goals and taking advantage of every opportunity presented to him. There is a huge whole in the hearts of those who loved him. I only hope that the young people who knew him will take up the torch and be inspired by his legacy. I also hope that those of us who were lucky enough to teach and coach him will use his extraordinary spirit to motivate us to continue the work that we do with young people. We miss you Stafone.

  5. The City says:

    Why are the greatest kids taken? Tragedy after tragedy, it never seems to end. R.I.P.

  6. Arnold Zelaya says:

    I can remember when Stafone first came to Mission as a freshman trying out for FS basketball. He had been with wrestling for a couple of days and had he chosen to go that route, I’m sure he would have become an outstanding wrestler and probably would have gone on to beat many opponents. Instead Stafone showed up to basketball later in the season and had absolutely zero skills. Coach Graham, Coach Steele and myself looked at each other and said, “What the hell are we supposed to do with this?” He was an awkward freshman with stone hands and the grace of an ox. Instantly, however, we fell in love with Stafone’s efforts and work ethic. He was by far, the hardest working kid in the program. By the end of his sophomore year Stafone was playing Varsity basketball celebrating center court at Kezar winning the first basketball championship at Mission High School since 1993. While he didn’t play much that year, I am absolutely certain that his work ethic and hustle at practice pushed the team to a championship level. As a senior, Stafone celebrated center court at Kezar again. This time Stafone was a hero on the court. When we seemed to be allowing the championship to slip through our hands, in one awesome display of awkwardness Stafone fell to his rear, got back up, grabbed an offensive rebound, and threw up the ugliest shot that I’d ever seen. We watched it bounce off the backboard and go through the net as he was fouled. Stafone proceeded to throw up the ugliest freethrow I ever saw and bank that in. After that play, we never looked back and won our 2nd championship in three years. Stafone was a winner. Stafone was a champion. Stafone was a hero.

    Having worked with San Francisco kids for 19 years now, there has been no other like Stafone. Stafone has set the bar pretty high. Stafone is what we should all push our kids to be like. He was honest, hard working, unselfish, and dedicated. He hustled in all aspects of his life. He hustled in sports and in his schoolwork. He gave life his all. Stafone always put his best foot forward and because of that we have all become better people because he touched our lives. Stafone will never die because we carry with us his goodness whenever we try our best, whenever we sacrifice and put others first.

    The world is a worse place without Stafone in it. Stafone was an outstanding athlete, an outstanding student, an outstanding leader, an outstanding friend, and an outstanding person. It is impossible to understand why someone that was so full of life, so full of promise, so full of passion could be taken from us so soon. I can only imagine that God needed help stopping the run, some help on the offensive glass, or just needed a loyal reliable friend. That’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. Stafone, thank you for touching my life, for making me be a better coach, a better person. I will never forget you. I love you.

  7. Fellow Missioner says:

    Rest In Peace STAF1 , you will forever be missed. You were a great friend and awesome mentor. You are a great example of what many young men in this world shall look up to. I will never forgett you and as I walk those Mission hallways tomarrow morning you will be in my mind , body , spirit , and heart. Love You , #TeamStaf1

  8. Rob says:

    i love you stafone man with all my heart. Your my best friend and i will never forget u. I miss you dearly and glad to have had u in ma life. You taught me how to appreciate the little things in life and be happy no matter what. “If you aint laughin you aint livin.” thats ma motto for life now. i saw u everyday for like 5 years and it sucks that i cant anymore. u were there every year for my birthday since freshman year. i love u tho mann always in ma heart. STAF1

  9. B says:

    I remember Stafone when we hooped for Everett Middle School together. He was one of the only kids I knew growing up who had their head on straight; wasn’t one of those knuckleheads. I looked up to him, being two years younger. Unfortunately, after my 6th grade year, we lost touch as he went on to Mission. But I never forget what a good person he was. I can’t believe he’s gone. All love for my boy Stafone

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