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Expected and unexpected signing for UH basketball


    Kahuku pointguard Jessiya Villa plans to take a two-year church mission to Ghana before he plays college basketball in 2019-20.

As expected, the Hawaii basketball team picked up its first commitment of the spring today in Yuba (Calif.) College point guard Jaaron Stallworth.

What wasn’t as expected was Kahuku point guard Jessiya Villa pledging to join the Rainbow Warriors as well. Red Raiders coach Brandyn Akana confirmed the decision of Villa, who was to announce his decision at Kahuku High this afternoon. UH already signed his state champion teammate, wing Samuta Avea, back in the fall.

However, Villa, the Star-Advertiser state player of the year in 2016-17, plans to take a two-year church mission to Ghana before he plays college basketball in 2019-20. He does not count toward UH’s scholarship allotment until then.

The 6-foot Villa averaged 17.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds and had a 23-point outing in the state championship game against Punahou.

“We’re excited to welcome Jessiya to the Rainbow Warrior ‘ohana,” UH coach Eran Ganot said in a UH release. “He had a phenomenal high school career and was the driving force on a state championship team. He’s a winner, a leader, and comes from a great sports family. We can’t wait to have him back in Hawaii once he returns from his mission.”

An official visit to Manoa this week sealed the deal for Stallworth, a Northern California native who has three years of eligibility at the Division I level starting in 2017-18. He submitted his letter of intent paperwork today, the last day of the spring signing period.

“It felt like home as soon as I stepped on the campus,” Stallworth said in a phone interview. “I’m happy to be a part of the program and I want to strive to get better.”

Stallworth, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound freshman, averaged 13.8 points and 3.2 assists on a 49ers team that went 28-3 and reached the final eight of the CCCAA playoffs.

However, Stallworth had his junior college career cut short by ankle injuries and a broken leg; he played in just 13 of Yuba’s 31 games. Just about all of his D-I suitors vanished after the injuries, save UH.

He is on crutches but is expected to be healthy in time for next season.

“Well, obviously it took a toll on me,” Stallworth said of the injuries. “But my family was here to support me and I’m just sticking through it. I’ve been fighting. This isn’t going to hold me back at all.”

Stallworth’s cousin, Drake, signed to play with the UH football team in February.

He represents the first of four scholarships UH has available to hand out this offseason. Although the signing period ends today, teams may add players with non-binding scholarship agreements for the rest of the summer.

“We really look forward to what Jaaron will bring to our program,” Ganot said in the release. “He’s fast, athletic, and can really shoot. He comes from a solid family and his personality and leadership qualities make him a great fit here. Jaaron’s excited to be a Rainbow Warrior and we’re equally thrilled to welcome him to our ‘ohana.”

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