Chaminade Shake: Jessiya Villa’s Rollercoaster Ride and Refinement Back to the Top 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED JUNE 23, 2023

HONOLULU — Adversity and adjustments are familiar acquaintances in Kahuku graduate Jessiya Villa’s life.

Born on O’ahu, the guard relocated to the mainland early on in life and spent the first three years of high school in Maryland before finally returning home for the 2016-17 school year, suiting up with Samuta Avea for the Red Raiders.

His “return” home actually came the year prior, as Villa came back to the islands with his mainland squad for the 2015 ‘Iolani Classic and helped lead the Maryland-based program to a high finish while he placed amongst the leading scorers of the event. 

While it was exciting to participate in as an outsider, the Hawai’i-native-turned-mainland-transplant knew that there was something still missing. 

“I’m a very family-oriented person,” the ’17 Kahuku graduate said. “Coming back to Kahuku from the mainland allowed me to reconnect with family members… I remember being one of the only Polynesian-lookin’ dudes out on the mainland and coming to Kahuku, I just fit right in. I don’t see any negatives when it comes to attending an OIA school in comparison to others.” 

Villa decided to come back home for his final year before stepping up to the college ranks, suiting up with former University of Hawai’i men’s basketball star Samuta Avea among others at Kahuku for the 2016-17 basketball season. 

And what a magical season it was for the “Big Red Sea” and team. 

The season started with another visit to the event that helped bring the benefits of Hawai’i back to the forefront for Villa. 

Taking his second trip to the ‘Iolani Classic, this time with an OIA school, he was on the right side. 

“I was a villain my junior year and then senior year with the good guys,” Villa chuckled as he recalled both experiences. 

He finished as the tournament’s leading scorer, averaging over 21 points a night while helping Kahuku to a 3rd-place finish in the 2016 edition of the event. The Hawai’i program took down a pair of national powerhouses on the way to the bronze. 

Behind the efforts of Avea and Villa, Kahuku went on a magical run to win the 2017 HHSAA Division I state championship for the Red Raiders. The title remains the most recent D1 state champion earned by an OIA school after Campbell fell to Saint Louis in the 2023 championship.

The guard’s return home was capped off with HHSAA player of the year honors to go along with being named Hawai’i’s Gatorade Player of the Year. 

Following his graduation from Kahuku, Villa took a redshirt year while staying home for the University of Hawai’i along with Avea.

While the pairing of UH and Villa didn’t work out on the court, the guard knew Hawai’i was home and already had an existing relationship with the Chaminade staff. 

The guard transferred into the Silverswords program after entering the portal, making his debut in the spring of 2021, and giving fans a preview of what they could expect. 

The 6-foot redshirt junior played in all 12 games, making 10 starts and finishing top-three in scoring on the team in the abbreviated stint. With eyes to a full season, the potential of 2022 quickly was crushed by a knee injury that would sideline Villa for the year.

“Coming back from that injury was probably one of the most difficult moments of my life,” he said of the rehab process. “After a few years, I feel in the best shape that I’m in [now].” 

While it hurt physically, the mental battle was almost equally difficult. Luckily for Villa, a connection with former NBA MVP and current New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose helped the now-redshirt junior with some advice in his journey back. 

“The recovery process will not be easy, but it will be worth it,” Villa said the former All-NBA selection assured him. In terms of his own advice to continue on Rose’s, Villa said he would advise others to “take advantage of every moment, take it day-by-day and don’t rush it.”

Villa returned last season in November but is fully healthy as he heads into the 2023-24 slate with eyes on etching himself in another piece of Hawaiian basketball history. The Silverswords will compete in the Maui Invitational this season, a chance to play against some of the cream of the Division I crop. 

“I’ll give you one huge expectation for me is to play a significant role,” he said of the upcoming season and the chances presented to the Swords. “We have the Maui Invitational this year and so I’d like to knock down one of those teams.” 

The ’17 graduate of Kahuku also discussed his preparation for college after his one year at the OIA school before going on to talk about his studies and plans of taking advantage of his extra two years of eligibility on the court to help him in his pursuit of a master’s degree at Chaminade.  

Villa has racked up a lot of miles, both in travel and experience. While it could be exhausting to some, for the Kahuku graduate, the journey rolls on with eyes on improvement every day.