UH basketball signs Kahuku’s Villa


Jessiya Villa signed with UH at Kahuku High School.

On the final day of the spring signing period, Hawaii basketball coach Eran Ganot expanded his team’s options in the coming years at the most important position on the floor.

UH made official the signings of point guards Jaaron Stallworth of Yuba (Calif.) College and Jessiya Villa of Kahuku High School.

“You check a lot of boxes for each of them in terms of point guard play, shooting and skill,” Ganot said. “Competitiveness, high-character kids, leaders. Real excited about where they’re at and how far they can take it.”

The 6-foot-1 Stallworth averaged 13.8 points, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game with 40.7 percent 3-point shooting in playing about half the season for Yuba. The 6-foot Villa put up 17.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds for a stacked Red Raiders squad that won the state title, leading to Star-Advertiser and Gatorade state player of the year honors.

They sign under unique circumstances.

The athletic Stallworth, an academic qualifier out of Cosumnes River High and the U.S. Naval Academy prep school, suffered separate ankle and leg injuries during his freshman season in junior college. However, he is expected to recover in time for the fall semester. Villa, meanwhile, won’t be available until the 2019-20 season because he will embark on a two-year church mission to Ghana in July.

Stallworth had envisioned Hawaii growing up in Northern California; it became reality when he took an official visit this week.

UH stuck with him while his other D-I suitors backed off because of the injuries.

“I’m actually where I want to be now because I’ve been looking at Hawaii for years,” Stallworth said. “It’s just like home.”

Home was important too for Villa, who was born here but spent much of his childhood on the mainland. By signing a letter of intent in a ceremony at the Red Raiders’ campus Wednesday, Villa officially committed himself to a team years in advance. He will not count toward UH’s scholarship allotment until his return from Accra, capital of the West African country, in 2019.

“The feeling is immeasurable. It’s something that I’ve dreamed of, something that I’ve set as a goal ever since I was a little kid,” Villa said. “Just being able to put my name down on a piece of paper like that is so significant to me and my family. It just lets me know that all my hard work, all the dedication and passion I put into this sport, it was worthwhile.”

His Kahuku teammate, wing Samuta Avea, had already signed with UH in the fall.

“I knew what I had to do in order to receive the same thing he received,” Villa said. “He just told me ‘it was a good decision.’ ”

Villa’s UH recruitment flew below the media radar right until his signing. Red Raiders coach Brandyn Akana said he’d received West Coast Conference, Pac-12 and Big West interest.

“There’s nothing like home,” Villa said.

Stallworth will have some family to lean on here. His cousin, Drake Stallworth, signed as a receiver with the UH football team in February.

“It’s incredible. It’s a blessing that me and him both are on this campus next year together,” Jaaron said. “Me and my family are super happy and we’re planning on the Stallworths making some noise on the Hawaiian islands.”

UH has three more openings for next season. Players still may be added via non-binding scholarship agreements.


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