Villa lifted Red Raiders to unprecedented heights
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kahuku guard Jessiya Villa lifted the Red Raiders to unprecedented heights with his work ethic and play.
An hour early, an hour and more beyond.
It didn’t matter how well the Kahuku Red Raiders were playing. Every day, Jessiya Villa’s goal was to get in more work before and after practice. Even after a preseason injury to his (shooting) shoulder. Even with 5 a.m. wake-ups and, of course, all the long drives to and from Kahuku to OIA and state tournament games.
Villa, the hoops lifer who was born and raised on Oahu, moved to the East Coast and then returned for his senior season, was voted Star-Advertiser All-State Fab 15 player of the year. Coaches and media also gave high marks to Villa’s teammate, Samuta Avea, and ‘Iolani’s reigning POY, Hugh Hogland.
Villa, however, was the ignition key to the Kahuku machine, a point guard with a nonstop motor. His ability to start the offense and help mold new and old pieces together for a state championship run was a big factor. His ability to penetrate and hit a variety of runners, bank shots, reverse layups and draw contact consistently made Big Red a force from the opening tip of every game.
That is, except when Villa didn’t suit up. That happened in the OIA semifinal round, when a concussion suffered at practice was the culprit. Villa was cleared medically to play, but Akana — his coach and uncle — opted to err on the side of caution. With Villa sidelined, Kahuku trailed most of the way before rallying to edge Kailua 42-40.
The Red Raiders went on to rout Kapolei in the OIA title game with Villa back in the lineup, and then captured the first boys basketball state crown in school history. Villa averaged 17 points per game at the state tourney, including 23 in the title tilt against ILH champion Punahou. He also averaged four rebounds and four assists per game.
The 6-foot point guard scored 17 points per game overall, including 27 against Mt. Vernon (N.Y.) and 26 vs. De La Salle (Calif.) at the ‘Iolani Classic.
“At times, he looked like a man playing among boys. He will definitely be a force at the next level,” Lahainaluna coach Jason Justus said. “His command of the game is something you don’t see very often.”
“He’s the best point guard in the state,” ‘Iolani coach Dean Shimamoto said. “He controlled the entire game, handling the ball, breaking presses, creating for teammates and finishing. Everything you want in a point guard.”
Avea came on stronger as the season went by. Early on, he overcame an offseason injury to an ankle. By the state tourney, the 6-6 senior was unstoppable on both ends. In the state championships, the Hawaii-bound swingman averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and nearly nearly three blocks per contest. He had 20 points, 11 boards and four swats in the finals against Punahou and was selected all-tournament most outstanding player.
Justus, the third-year Lahainaluna coach, was voted all-state coach of the year after guiding his team to another MIL title and third place at the state championships.
Also getting significant point totals were: Nathan Davis, who guided Kalani to an OIA Division II title and reached the state title game; Akana, the second-year head coach of the Red Raiders; Donald Awa, who led Konawaena to the BIIF crown and an upset win over Kailua in the state tournament; and Darren Matsuda, who orchestrated Punahou’s title run in the ILH. Also receiving votes: Walter Marciel (Kailua), Kelly Grant (Maryknoll), Shimamoto, Byron Mello (Moanalua), Ron Durant (St. Francis), Duane Omori (McKinley) and Russ Fitzgerald (Leilehua).