Known for his gritty, lockdown defense and his deadly perimeter shot, Arron Afflalo’s game is still evolving. And at only 26 years of age, there’s no limit on how far that evolution will go.

He’s earned both high school and college All-American honors. He’s been named the Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year. He led his school to back-to-back Final Fours. And most recently, he’s one of the NBA’s most improved and fastest rising players.

From Compton to Westwood

Maybe Arron Agustin Afflalo was destined for basketball at birth.

Arron was born on Oct. 15, 1985, to Benjamin Afflalo and Gwendolyn Washington at the UCLA Medical Center — mere minutes away from Pauley Pavilion, where he would play his college basketball some 18 years later. But it took only a year before Arron’s love affair with the sport began to blossom.

Gwendolyn said her son was infatuated with basketballs from infancy.

“From the time he was 1, that was all he loved,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I couldn’t go to the grocery or anywhere. I’d try to avoid the aisles with balls. Aaron had boxes and boxes full of balls by the time he was 2 or 3.”

Naturally, Arron grew up in Inglewood as a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. He also grew to become an especially big fan of another Inglewood native — Lakers guard Byron Scott. Arron fancied Scott’s game so much, that when he went to UCLA, he picked Scott’s famous No. 4 to wear on his own back.

Arron’s home court moved to Compton as a teenager when he took up residence with his father. It was during these years that Arron’s interest in sports — particularly basketball — developed into a dedicated passion. Arron would regularly wake up his father in the wee hours of the night to spot him while he lifted weights. He lifted so actively that he trimmed down to less than six percent body fat.

His motivation and personal drive were no surprise considering his father’s background. Born to a single mother of five children, Benjamin’s youth included a stint in boarding school. He eventually served four years in the Air Force, where Benjamin said he learned personal accountability. He passed the trait on to his son.

"My Dad, he always cared unconditionally, and everything he approached me with was real, in a sense," Arron told the LA Times. "He's always honest with me. He never catered to me. He never pushed me. Everything he did was just purely out of love, and just real. There was nothing false about anything he did in my life. He didn't tell me something I didn't need to hear because I wanted to hear it. Because of that, I always stayed grounded and always stayed humble. I don't think I ever changed."

In high school, Arron’s work ethic began to bear fruits on the basketball court. He averaged 26.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and five assists per game as a high school junior, leading Centennial High to the CIF SS Div. III-A title game. In the process, he earned numerous Player of the Year honors, including the Wooden Award’s Div. III Player of the Year. His success led to a spot at the sixth annual USA Basketball Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo. There, Arron led the West squad to a bronze medal while averaging 15.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists.

Arron fared even better as a senior, as he led Centennial to a 32-3 record and its first-ever Div. III CA State title while averaging 23 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. His game earned Arron not only more local recognition, but made a name for him across the entire country, culminating in a spot as a starter in the 2004 McDonald’s All-American game.

Meanwhile, Arron was drawing interest from a bevvy of college basketball powerhouses — and not solely for his basketball prowess. In addition to his hoop success, Arron excelled in the classroom and recorded an impressive 3.5 GPA at Centennial. But despite plethora of offers, Arron couldn’t turn down the offer that came from closest to home, courtesy of Ben Howland, and he committed in April of 2003 to become a UCLA Bruin.