Bejarano grew up in Central Phoenix, Ariz., moving from one apartment to another as one of five children. He started playing baseball first, and picked up basketball when he was “six or seven.”
North High School boy’s basketball coach Joesph Bustos first saw Bejarano play basketball when he was in seventh grade.
“He was 6 foot, maybe 6-foot-1 and I kept thinking, ‘I wish I could get a kid like that in my program,” Bustos said.
Bejarano stepped in with three other freshman and made an immediate impact. North High School made the state playoffs that year and every year of his career. The Mustangs even won the state championship during Bejarano’s junior season.
They were down seven points at halftime of the championship game, and as many as 11 in the fourth quarter, but Bejarano forced five turnovers to help them claw back into the game.
“He worked so hard that quarter he vomited,” Bustos said.
Bejarano wouldn’t return to the locker room, and eventually returned to the game with a few minutes left.
North High School won on a last second shot from the corner.
“It was just one of those things where it’s like your family, it’s like your team. You’re not trying to let them down knowing that they’re looking at you, depending on you,” Bejarano said. “The biggest thing is I’m not trying to let no one down. I threw up, so what? If I bleed, so what? If I get a dead leg, so what? I’m not going to leave you guys behind.”
That sense of family extended to coach Bustos. Bejarano dedicated his entire career to Bustos’ mother, who passed away during his junior year when they won the state championship.
“I saw what his mom was going through, so I wanted to show my love,” Bejarano said. “ I really take in, it doesn’t matter who’s my coach, that’s just me as a person.”
Bejarano was a four-time Phoenix metro region player of the year and a two time all-state selection by the Arizona Republic. He was initially committed to play his college ball at Texas.
“I decommitted because my dad died, and that’s family. It’s one of those things where I talked to him today and next thing you know he’s gone, you just don’t know,” Bejarano said. “I made a decision that I wanted to stay in state.”
The University of Arizona had been recruiting Bejarano since his freshman year, and its location combined with the Wildcats’ tradition and style of play made him feel like it was the place to take him to the next level.
“I always told him when you make your decision you have to be happy with it,” Bustos said. “At the time he thought it was the right choice for him.”
Bejarano knew it wasn’t right on the first day of practice. Arizona’s coaching staff had told him he was going to come in and play immediately and that he was going to make a big impact, he said.
Bejarano played 30 total minutes during his freshman season, enough to score six points on eight field goal attempts.
“You have a coach in your house telling you one thing and you go to that school and it’s another thing,” he said.
But Bejarano stuck with it. He tried as much as possible to be a team player in practice and give advice whenever he could from the bench.
“It hit, it hit me and it was hard. You’re going in expecting to play and trying to play and there’s nothing that you can do because you’re not the coach, you’re a player,” Bejarano said.
When he finally decided to transfer. Bejarano took long looks at Nevada, Montana and CSU.
The environment in Fort Collins and the Rams’ program ultimately brought him to CSU.
He found that family atmosphere that had been missing since his high school days.
“Just the kind of guys that we are. We’re pretty easygoing to be around. I think it’s easy to gel with our team, that’s something we take a lot of pride in,” senior guard Dorian Green said. “A lot of people say they have a family atmosphere, and with us it’s no talk. It’s something we really take pride in.”
Bejarano sat out last season due to NCAA transfer eligibility rules, but used that time to get to know his teammates better and further develop his game.
He played on CSU’s scout team, often mimicking opponents’ best players during practices.
“It’s like 50/50, you don’t want to sit out but you know you have to. But at the same time sitting out helped me a lot of ways working on my game. In a way trying to help out the guys every day on scout team,” Bejarano said. “I try to look out for them and go my hardest because if I’m not going hard how are they going to do in the game?”
Then Tim Miles, the coach who had recruited Bejarano to come to CSU, left for Nebraska after last season.
Bejarano considered going to a different school, even if it meant losing a year of eligibility in the transfer process. But having his teammates to talk to and knowing how special the 2012 season could be for CSU kept Bejarano in Fort Collins.
“It really did help having the guys around me and us talking every day and thinking, ‘if we stay together, we can make a run.’ We all stuck together,” Bejarano said.
The move from Arizona to Colorado hasn’t been the easiest for Bejarano. He’s not quite used to snow yet, and there are times he wishes he could eat at Filibertos or Jack in the Box, but he is happy with his decision to come to CSU.
“I know this is not Arizona, but it’s like (coach) Larry (Eustachy)’s practice; you’ve gotta love it going into it and want to do it. You’ve got to come here and want to be here,” Bejarano said. “I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else. Everything happened for a reason.”
Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com