Former Centennial standout KJ Lesure graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arkansas at Monticello last week.
Lesure, 22, capped a collegiate career that included two years of playing basketball at Columbia State as well as two more at UAM, where Lesure pieced together one of the best careers in Weevils men’s basketball history.
“That’s just how my mom raised me really, to try to be best and work hard in everything I do,” Lesure said.
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Lesure earned First Team Academic All-America honors by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) in March and was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Give Back Team as one of 10 student-athletes from NCAA Division I, II and III and the NAIA, selected for their outstanding community service efforts.
Lesure was a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection, a Great American Conference Distinguished Scholar Athlete, a Bevo Francis Top 100 Player to Watch and a two-time All-GAC selection. He reached the 1,000-point plateau early this past season and also tied the single-season record in UAM history for assists (180), while leading the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game.
Lesure, who majored in business administration, took some time to take part in the latest Williamson County sports Q&A.
Pulliam: First off, congratulations graduate! I know we are in a really tough climate, but where are you now and what are your plans as a new grad?
Lesure: “Thank you! We had a virtual graduation last Friday. My coach helped do a little graduation video for all my family and friends, just keeping them updated and thanking them for being with me on this journey since we couldn't all get together. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA and that was a big accomplishment for me. Right now, I’m really just leaving it in God’s hands to direct me in the right path. I head back to Nashville in the morning and I’ll be getting my insurance license to join my mom’s business. I’ve also been planning to sign with an agent for basketball, too, just to gauge and entertain that route and see where God takes me.”
Pulliam: Can you sum up your college experience and just what it’s been like being a student-athlete at the collegiate level?
Lesure: “It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s been a great experience. It’s a life-changing one. Sometimes you have stay up late and make sacrifices, but the opportunity to play basketball and be a student-athlete is just tremendous. I know some people tend to shy away from the JUCO route because it has this bad rap sometimes, but it made me, you know. I am who am because of this. No matter what level you’re at, you have to earn your spot and be dedicated to move up. Just like the corporate ladder, you have to work your way up to being a CEO or CFO. I think JUCO made me appreciate my ability to play basketball and appreciate the people around me more to help me get where I want to be.”
Pulliam: What kind of advice do you have for high schoolers trying to pursue playing at the next level?
Lesure: “It’s really about the fit. I didn’t just want to go somewhere because I could play, I wanted to go where it felt kind of like family. The coaches here (at UAM), they took me in almost as one of their kids. They helped me on the court and in the classroom just making me be the best young man I could be. The best advice I can give is to look beyond the school and look at the staff and culture. You have to look at your environment so see what best fits you and your life. I really credit my mom so much, she helped me really understand that. What’s the best for you at the end of the day. She said that. She was so right.”
Pulliam: How’d you build on your experience in the Franklin area and what did you take away from your time at Centennial?
Lesure: “It just felt like my home space. When you’re comfortable in your environment, you to tend to play better and really just do better overall. You know, coach (Terry) Johnson my junior year and coach (Pete) Froedden my senior year, they both gave me tools that helped me excel and grow as a young man. They both gave me the confidence and opportunity. I couldn’t be more grateful for that.”
Pulliam: You’ve really showcased the student first side of being a young athlete over the years. Can you describe that mindset?
Lesure: “The student part is going to be with you for the rest of your life. The basketball, the football, the baseball, all that’s always going to end up stopping at some point, so you have to focus on the student part and always strive for higher levels of learning. You do that and it sticks with you for life. It has to be a priority and I've just always tried to keep that going.”
Pulliam: You’re leaving UAM etched in the record books. What was your favorite UAM moment?
Lesure: “I would say probably hitting the game winner against (Southern Arkansas University) on our rivalry night. That was a pretty big moment that I'll never forget and you know, getting to go to Hawaii for that DII showcase tournament. That was one of favorite experiences in college just going there and having some of my family with me and being able to showcase my skills.”
Pulliam: Let’s keep the favorites going. What about your favorite basketball moment or memory from your Columbia State days and time at Centennial?
Lesure: “Oh man, there’s a lot there. I think the rivalry games against Motlow were always the best with Columbia State. Those all helped me as a competitor and the competition just elevated the game. At Centennial, playing Franklin and really just playing against those guys like Garrison Mathews. We still keep in contact. He's a great guy with a level head."
Pulliam: You’ve mentioned your mom several times. Is there a Cathy Lesure quote or statement that you always remember?
Lesure: “I think what’s always stuck with me is how she just always wants me to be the best version of me. To be the best version of me while always looking to the man above.”
Pulliam: Let’s do a couple more favorites. What’s your favorite pre-game meal?
Lesure: "Chicken Alfredo. Every home game I would make that.”
Pulliam: Favorite sport other than basketball?
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Lesure: “I’d have to say football. I played soccer when I was younger, but I played football all the way up to high school and it was my second favorite sport.”
Pulliam: OK, last one. Who is your favorite athlete all-time?
Lesure: “The crazy thing is it was LeBron, but after this Michael Jordan documentary, I would definitely have to say Michael Jordan is. That documentary series gave me a whole different outlook on his drive and determination. He overcame so much, like his dad’s death, and it’s just something I was able to relate to in my own way. His will to win is the greatest.”
Pulliam: It's a strange time right now with this health crisis going on. As a 2020 graduate, what kind of advice do you have for other graduates this year?
Lesure: "I would just let them know that I'm proud of them first. Even during this tough time, even though a lot of people didn't get to celebrate this big step in our lives, just knowing that you have people in your corner or people looking at you who are proud of you, that's an incredible accomplishment. The biggest thing is we have to stay positive. There's so much negative out there, but stay positive and look forward to the next steps in your journey."