Like many residents of Sumter, Trayvon Jefferson is a transplant. Born and raised in North Charleston, Jefferson didn’t have a straight line to Sumter, but he’s happy to have ended up here.
Jefferson rebounded from Illinois junior college basketball to Morris College, never to play for Sumter School as he battled ineligibility and a season wiped out by COVID-19. It was then that he found Perseverance. Not virtue, the team. Sumter’s semi-professional basketball team helped shine a light on Jefferson’s skills and he is now heading to Guerros Chatinos De Yaitepec Oaxaca, in one of Mexico’s top professional leagues, CiprodeBaco.
“I’m not from Sumter, but Sumter is home. Sumter gave me an opportunity. An opportunity my city didn’t give me,” said Jefferson. “I love Sumter. It means a lot to me. It will always be my second home. I will show the same love that I show my own city.”
Jefferson’s basketball career was far from straightforward. After a career in North Charleston, he went to play junior college basketball in Illinois. After his two years there, he started looking for a four-year school. On the advice of his cousin Raekwon McFadden, he decides to come to Sumter and play at Morris College.
Unfortunately, it never really worked. Jefferson was not academically eligible as a junior, but spent the year working on his grades so he could return to the field for his senior season. Then COVID-19 hit. Morris College didn’t play basketball and wondered if he would ever play the sport again.
“I got out of the concrete, I got out of the mud for real for real,” said Jefferson of his struggles on and off the court. “I was not given anything. I took everything from scratch. Going through it all, it was worth it because I just signed my first pro contract.
“90% of the players, if they had been through what I went through, they would have just given up. I didn’t give up. I fought in adversity and I continued to fight.”
Jefferson wasn’t even thinking about buying a basketball when a friend approached him to play for the Perseverance Panthers, a semi-professional Sumter team that plays in the American Basketball Association. Jefferson agreed to give it a shot. In his first game, he was productive. He realized that his basketball dream was still alive and well in Sumter.
“I hadn’t played in a while. I had to regroup. It wasn’t easy,” said Jefferson. “Before that I wasn’t at the gym, honestly. Being on this team and seeing that I can still go made me hungry. I went back to the gym, grew up and I worked on my game. “
Playing for Team Perseverance opened doors for Jefferson, including the opportunity to participate in pro camps. The biggest camp was Coast2Coast, an international basketball showcase that allows players to be seen by teams around the world. He has participated in this showcase twice, each time playing for the team that won the championship.
It didn’t take long for teams to notice the South Carolina star. He started playing in March and this fall he got a call from Guerros Chatinos De Yaitepec Oaxaca offering him the opportunity to come and play in Mexico. At the end of September, he signs the contract. He will start his season in Mexico in November. He thanks Team Perseverance and Head Coach Junko Allen for giving him the opportunity to pursue his dream.
“I made a lot of bad decisions and missed a lot of opportunities. I knew when I joined the team that it was my last straw, but I also knew that it was the best opportunity for me, ”said Jefferson of joining the Perseverance team. “I just knew if I took this opportunity I would go somewhere with this. I started in March and we are here now in October and I am signed. This is how time flies. I knew I was going to go. to do it, I just had to question myself.
“This team plays with a lot of good people and puts you in front of the right people. You have to seize the opportunity. You have to come out and present your game. The program gives you the opportunity to do what you need to do, but you have to put it into your head that you are going to enjoy it. “
This opportunity in Mexico is going to come with a lot of changes. On the one hand, Jefferson does not speak Spanish. He knows it won’t be easy, but Jefferson’s life hasn’t been easy so far, so he’s ready for the next challenge.
“I have to take every opportunity that comes my way. This is not the last either,” said Jefferson. “Just like I took the semi-pro team and took the opportunity and went somewhere with it, I have to do the same when I go to Mexico. I’m going to go with the same job and the same state of mind and when I’m done there who knows? I might be in G League, I might be in Euro League. “
Jefferson also knows his opportunity in Mexico isn’t limited to basketball. As a professional athlete, you have to treat gambling like it’s a business.
“I knew it was more important than dribbling the basketball and putting it in the basket. A lot of players don’t know this is a business for real,” said Jefferson. “You have to be focused and be entrepreneurial. Everything is a process. You have to plant the seed, but it won’t sprout right away. You have to give it time. who stay patient and work hard to win at the end of the day. “
He also seeks to give back to the community around him in Mexico. Jefferson is passionate about helping the communities that have helped him along the way. In fact, he spent Monday in Sumter volunteering at the North Hope Center, talking to the next generation about the importance of persevering and working hard.
“I want to help. Some players go pro and tell you to find your way. I’m not that kind of guy,” said Jefferson. “I want to reach out, like I am doing right now, talking to the kids, doing things for the community. I know God will bless me to go further and I am ready for it.”
Jefferson hopes people can learn a simple lesson from his story. Take advantage of any opportunity that is offered to you. So far, that mindset has taken him to a professional basketball league in Mexico. Next? Who knows?
“Whoever is here, I don’t care how small (the opportunity) is, grab it,” Jefferson said. “It’s like a seed, you plant that seed, you water that seed and it will grow. As long as you water it, it will grow.
“That’s what I’m going to keep doing, watering my flower.”