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Basketball took him from one school to another. But along the way, he’s grown up

Former Pasadena basketball player Ajon Efferson holds his son, Phoenix.
Former Pasadena basketball player Ajon Efferson holds his son, Phoenix.
(Isabella Serra)

Ajon Efferson is 20 years old. He attended four high schools in four years and won three CIF championships as a starting point guard. He has attended three colleges in three years.

He’s the father of an 8-month-old boy named Phoenix — an appropriate name, since his father keeps rising up no matter the adversity.

In an era where there were nearly 16,000 transfers last year in California high school sports and even more will be transferring in the next few weeks, Efferson is an interesting case study, a poster child for what’s been happening.

He started his basketball days winning a City Section championship at Woodland Hills Taft as a freshman, then went back to his neighborhood school, Pasadena, as a sophomore and won a Southern Section title. As a junior, he left to play for Gardena Serra and won another title. He went back to Pasadena as a senior.

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“Truth be told, if [Coach] Derrick Taylor had never left Taft, I would have been there all four years,” Efferson said.

Instead, he went from school to school and everyone welcomed him because he was a good player, good student and good kid. There were family issues (his mother was ill). But basketball was always part of the equation.

Despite his many moves, he received a scholarship to Cal State Northridge, but left after the 2014-15 season and transferred to Midland College in Texas. Four games into last season, he left town to bury his mother. Now he’s attending Pasadena City College and not playing but hoping to receive a college scholarship and finish out his two years of eligibility.

If anyone can talk about lessons learned, it’s Efferson.

“A lot of times kids can’t control what’s going on outside.” he said. “If I could give any advice, it doesn’t matter who you play for or who coaches you. If you come and play hard every day and have a positive attitude, it will work out.”

Asked why some students move around so much, Efferson said, “It’s more whatever the parent and coach talked about. It’s more the parent telling them what they expect to have. I’ve seen parents want unlimited playing time. I’ve seen parents want gas money and cars. I’ve seen this in middle school. It’s the world we live in.”

Becoming a father, Efferson said, has helped force him to grow up.

“Honestly, it’s only affected me positively,” he said. “The only thing is I had to cut out things I shouldn’t have been doing — hanging out, being late, not being organized, not being prepared. I don’t do those things anymore.”

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Tim Tucker, the basketball coach at Pasadena Maranatha who coached Efferson for one season at Pasadena, said his former point guard is one of the hardest workers around. But he also said his many moves have probably left college coaches perplexed.

“At some point, he has to find something he’s satisfied with and make it work,” he said. “It’s not always about quantity but quality and having a positive experience in life.”

As with changing jobs, you want to make sure you leave on good terms, and for the most part, Efferson has done that. But for every decision he has made, there are consequences, good and bad, and he’s had to keep plugging away while refusing to give up the game he loves.

He practices on his own, waiting for another opportunity to show what he can do. He seems determined, if you believe this tweet from his account: “No relations, no friends! Just God, my family, this AA at the end of spring, & signed to a D1 university.”

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: latsondheimer

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