Valdes says goodbye

Aaron Valdes is done wearing a UH green uniform. / Photo by Darrell Miho, Special to the Star-Advertiser
Aaron Valdes is done wearing a UH green uniform. / Photo by Darrell Miho, Special to the Star-Advertiser

Aaron Valdes is making the leap.

Valdes announced his decision to turn pro this morning in a letter distributed to the media.

And thus, UH’s top five scorers from the record season of 2015-16 won’t be back in Manoa next year. It’s looking like a pretty challenging rebuild project for coach Eran Ganot.

At the moment (with decisions from Mike Thomas and Stefan Jovanovic … and maybe even Niko Filipovich still pending) here’s the players with eligibility remaining:

Sheriff Drammeh
Zach Buscher
Brocke Stepteau
Jack Purchase
Jakob Cornelissen

That’s a combined 15.5 points per game returning — again, at the moment — out of 77.1.

Like with Stefan Jankovic, you can’t fault Valdes for doing what he felt was best for his future. And like Jankovic, he’s very close to graduating. At the same time, you can only wonder how his game would progress with another season here, given the considerable progression he made over his first three full years.

I’m sure people will miss his crowd-pleasing style of play; I know I will.

Here’s a copy of Valdes’ letter:

After taking the last few weeks to weigh my options for the future, I have finally made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. Please know this was not an easy decision and it required much prayer and consideration. That being said, I have decided to forego my final year of eligibility at the University of Hawaii and explore my professional options as a basketball player.

These past 4 years in Hawaii have been some of the best and most memorable and I will never forget the moment’s we’ve shared together. It has been an honor and a privilege to represent such a great state and such great people. Please know that wherever my future leads, I will always carry Hawaii with me.

While so many people have helped and supported me along the way, I never would have made this far without a few special people who truly made a difference in my journey. I would like to personally thank those who went above and beyond to make it all possible: Amanda Patterson who worked tirelessly to help me navigate through the NCAA system from day 1, Kari Ambrozich and Jim Gillespie who encouraged me & challenged me academically to become a better student, Coach Benjy Taylor who believed in me and challenged me to become a better player, Coach Brad Autry who took extra time to work with me on developing my individual game and help see things differently, Jay Goo; the best trainer ever who worked magic on a daily basis, Auntie Bobbie & Auntie Wendy for just being a mom away from mom, and my current coaching staff for pushing not only me, but the entire team to not only be better basketball players on the court but better men off the court.

Thank you Dayton Moriaga, Rob DeMello, Brian McInnis, Gary Dickman and “the guys in the corner” for allowing me to grow as a student-athlete and learn to express my thoughts, feelings and opinions in some of the toughest and happiest moments and much appreciation to Andrew Lee and Brandon Flores for capturing a lifetime of memories for us all.

To the fans, all I can say is thank you! Thank you! Thank you for all the love and support you showed me over the past four years. You have no idea how much it truly means to a player. You never counted us out, even in the toughest of times, and I hope we made you proud. What can I say about my brothers on the floor? Thank you for hanging tough in the good times and bad as we fought through hell and back these last few years. When I look back, it was all worth the fight for our names to go down in history together.

A special thank you to my family who have gone through the collegiate journey with me and helped me make some really difficult decisions. None of this would have been possible without their love and support.

Finally, thank you so much for allowing me to become part of the great Ohana that is HAWAII.
Mahalo and Go Bows!
Aaron Valdes

UPDATE: Here’s a quote from Ganot in UH’s official release on Valdes: “We want to thank AV for all his efforts and contributions to our program, to this University and this state. AV is an inspiring story as someone who put in a lot of work to take both his individual game and our program to new heights. Additionally, he has been tremendous in the community. He made great strides on the court each season and I know that will continue in his professional career. We will follow from afar and we know Hawaii will always be home for him.”

It sounds like Jovanovic will announce his decision early next week.


  1. Duster April 7, 2016 10:18 am

    Good luck and best wishes to Aaron!

  2. Hoosier April 7, 2016 11:55 am

    Hate to see him go but time for bigger and better things. Good luck, get that degree and enjoy much success in the future. For rest of team, like coach says, it will be next man up. Look forward to all the new faces this fall. I know I will still be there cheering them on.

  3. greenthumb April 7, 2016 12:49 pm

    Aaron Valdes, what a classy and eloquent letter. Thank you.

    I’m sad we won’t be seeing you on the Hawaii hardwood next season, but hope that we will be able to watch you play at the next level. Best wishes! Hope your life’s path brings you back, if not permanently, then from time to time.

  4. Derek April 7, 2016 2:31 pm

    Main thing he gets his degree. Good luck to Mr. Valdes. I will miss his exceptional athleticism. As Coach Ganot says, next man up. Another scholarship opens up, another opportunity for a new Rainbow Warrior. Hope the”Rock” stays.

  5. cappie the dog April 7, 2016 3:56 pm

    It’s the same thing with Stefan Jankovic.

    I would not be offended if Aaron Valdez transferred to another DI school, as long as it’s not a Big West opponent.

    Like Jankovic, if Valdez chose to stay, at least he would have the same coach for two consecutive years.

    I hope things work out for him, basketball-wise, that is.

    He has his degree. He always has that to fall back on.

  6. tongo April 7, 2016 4:52 pm

    Well said and very thoughtful. Kudos to his parents for bring up such a considerate person. All the very best Aaron. You were super fun to watch – and we will be cheering you on.

  7. pochoboy April 7, 2016 6:25 pm

    No mention of Gib Arnold. Yikes!

  8. Derek April 7, 2016 8:32 pm

    Maybe too many people to thank and he forgot some people. Yet, interesting. He thanked Gary Dickman, but did not mention BC, Portnoy, or Artie. Maybe oversight.

  9. cappie the dog April 8, 2016 3:53 pm

    Jeff Portnoy and Jackson Wheeler didn’t exactly have the most complimentary things to say about Aaron Valdez’ s chances as a professional basketball player on “Hoops Talk”.

    It bordered on mockery.

    I do like their bluntness, though.

    It’s a reality check.

    I always think our players are better than they actually are.

  10. blunite April 8, 2016 6:41 pm

    Change. He feels that he needs a change in his life and the “going Pro” excuse is as good as any other. Considering next year’s prospects without Jankovic, Bobbitt, and Quincy, who would blame him. Besides, with all his closest buddies leaving there is probably an emptiness/sadness in his heart that is difficult to bear if he stays.

  11. Julia Valdes April 9, 2016 7:22 am

    re: Aaron’s opportunities…. While everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, I’ve learned one thing through sports…..Haters gonna hate, doubters gonna doubt and winners are gonna win….. Mahalo for the motivation Mr. Portnoy, Curan and Wheeler.

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