Hawaii men’s basketball: Jessiya Villa joins list of Rainbow Warrior transfers; 2 Rainbow Wahine reportedly transfer

Hawaii guard Jessiya Villa dribbled on the first day of full practices for the 2019-20 season on Sept. 28. / Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino

The following appeared on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s breaking news:

Jessiya Villa, a freshman point guard for the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team, confirmed he has entered the transfer portal.

Villa redshirted this season after returning from a two-year church mission in Ghana.

“I entered this morning,” Villa said. “I’m officially a transfer. … In this business, in this realm, you just gotta keep yourself happy, and do what’s best, not only for yourself, more so, for everyone. I respect Eran Ganot. I respect the staff. I respect the program, and love the program so much. Nothing will change that. I just understood that I didn’t fit in the plans that him and his staff had. And so, with that being said, definitely at this point, because I returned from a mission and had little less than a year to recoup, I feel this decision will allow me to showcase what I have wherever I end up. Just to play. That’s all I want to do right now. Just to play.”

Villa was the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s 2017 Player of the Year after leading Kahuku High to the state championship. Villa averaged 17.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds during the 2016-2017 season.

Villa was born in Laie, but lived for five years in the Philippines, where his father played professional basketball. Villa then lived in West Virginia through his junior year of high school before transferring to Kahuku High for his senior year.

Villa is the third Rainbow Warrior to enter the transfer portal this week, following point guard Drew Buggs and center Dawson Carper. While Buggs and Carper are expected to move on to other Division I programs, Villa is likely to transfer to one of the three Division II teams in the state.


Also, two Rainbow Wahine basketball players are reportedly transferring. They are true freshman guard Makayla Edwards and redshirt freshman Lamarria Johnson. Edwards played sparingly as a utility player in 2019-20 while Johnson was hampered by ongoing injury trouble.


  1. SweatyMurphy March 28, 2020 4:59 pm

    UH is a school that often gets pushed back on most recruits’ radars as not being a priority school. This is too bad because this was a guy who wanted to be at UH and didn’t even get the chance to display what he could do before this staff pulled the plug on his UH career. Sad this had to happen to a kid coming out of a local school, too. This staff’s revolving door of recruits continues.

  2. Ran March 28, 2020 8:46 pm

    Come on..you’re saying he should have played even though he was not ready yet just because he was a local player??

  3. SweatyMurphy March 29, 2020 8:12 am

    @ “Ran”

    Where in my post does it say that because he’s “local”, he should have gotten playing time? I don’t know how you came to that correlation from what I wrote. I did write that it was unfortunate to see a local kid basically get told he won’t “fit” in the system for this coach that offered him prior to his mission. If this had happened after his first eligible year of actual play, his RS freshman year, and the coaches had a body of work to analyze that Villa wasn’t going to fit the program based off an actual year of play, then this decision would have been different. But the fact that they are basically out of any point guards on the current roster and are telling the only legit pg on campus that he doesn’t fit their future plans goes to show that they had made up their mind long before. Maybe before he even showed up on campus. At the very least, he preserved all four years of eligibility and won’t have to waste any more years under a staff that will always recruit over him and give other guys the looks.

  4. Casual Observer March 29, 2020 11:03 am

    Transfers happen all the time for all kinds of reasons and hopefully always for the betterment of the player. Of course its more obvious in basketball where rosters are smaller and players more scrutinized but where also they have greater individual impact on program success. Seldom considered is whether or not the player’s educational needs are met; I believe UH is a quality school.

  5. Matt March 29, 2020 12:47 pm

    At this point, I’m concerned with the future of the MBB program. The lack of PG depth is really going to loom large. And depending on how many scholarships are going to be there with the MBB program, Ganot’s gotta find a way to be creative with them. The lack of leadership is what is going to be missing because of Buggs leaving, Carper’s post presence, and Villa’s depth at point guard will be gone. Only Kameron Ng will be left, and that isn’t going to be good enough for this team to be back on track. Ganot can’t rely on returning and incoming players and a few JUCO players to get to the NCAA. If by some way he can use one of the scholarships to recruit a DI transfer, maybe we can get back on track and be competitive again.

    I don’t know what will happen, but hopefully the program will be able to find a way to resolve this situation.

    With the women’s basketball, of course, replacing Tago will be hard, and with the loss of Johnson and Edwards could be a little daunting for coach B. Maybe something good can come out of this, and hopefully we’ll rise from the ashes to the NCAA spot for next season with the WBB program. We had a chance, and maybe this winning season will provide hope for the team to grow and improve.

  6. Carlos March 29, 2020 1:46 pm

    This is good for the program. Ganot needs to redeem himself with his recruiting which has been terrible as of late. He has had a lot of misses when it comes to recruiting high schoolers but has hit on transfers more than not. We need to add athletic big men that can move even if their 6’9 or 6’10 they would still be better than hawaii’s current big men situation. Villa would not have likely been much of a contributer although he was a very good local hs player.

  7. Carlos March 29, 2020 1:48 pm

    @Matt. They have recruited an Australian point guard who has been said to be of pac-12 quality. we’ll see but we have 3 scholarships that recently opened up. We have a lot of versatile pieces coming in next year with madut, riley, and the JUCO transfer. We also have webster who should improve. Should at the very least recruit another pg. We need scorers. UCI would kill us every game with their midrange pull ups.

  8. SweatyMurphy March 29, 2020 6:49 pm


    “Villa would not have likely been much of a contributer although he was a very good local hs player.”

    We’ll never know because he wasn’t given a crack at it for next season which would have been his RS freshman year. Villa also could have eventually taken over the role that Brocke Stepteau left after his departure. A coaching staff can make or break you and unfortunately it seems that Ganot and Co. did the latter for Villa by not sticking with him and giving him at least the opportunity.

  9. Aiea 7 March 30, 2020 6:58 pm

    we really don’t know the story behind the story. at the end of each season, the coaches talk to the players individually about how the fit in with the program and what they can or should do to contribute. maybe the coach was frank with some of them about their potential future with the team so some decided to transfer. buggs is a little perplexing. I know Justin webster is a very good player will likely next year he will take over the PG slot as buggs towards the end of the season did not appear to be playing like he should or could. maybe he saw the writing on the wall and decided that it might be best to move and knowing what players are left and how the team might do next year.

  10. SweatyMurphy March 31, 2020 9:56 am

    @ Aiea

    Even if Webster is taking over for Buggs as pg (which is puzzling because he’s more of a shooter and they just lost Stansberry to graduation), that would leave a depth chart of 3 pgs if you include Villa and Bayles. It seemed like the staff wanted his scholarship from the beginning which is also puzzling. Never heard of a staff telling a redshirt freshman he doesn’t project into their long-term plan when they were the ones that recruited him in the first place. Why didn’t you see this before offering the kid?

  11. JK March 31, 2020 10:43 am

    @ SweatyMurphy

    He was a borderline D1 prospect out of high school. Perhaps he regressed or didn’t improve enough after not playing ball during his mission. I presume the coaches were evaluating him throughout the season during practices and saw that he won’t be a contributor in the near future. Villa’s quotes indicate that he wants to play (soon i assume). Perhaps he doesn’t want to wait until his senior year to develop into a contributor at this level of play. With the impacts made by true frosh Webster and Da Silva, I think Ganot feels he can get a much bigger immediate impact player now.

  12. SweatyMurphy April 1, 2020 4:30 pm

    @ JK

    The ball handling was horrible this season and the primary ball handler just decided he wants to take another date to the prom. I can see how if the writing is on the wall that Villa doesn’t want to be put on the back burner for 4 years by this staff that he wants out. But I think that has more to do with the staff not willing to give him an opportunity than it was his inability to play at this level or be impactful for UH.

  13. kapakahi April 3, 2020 8:01 pm

    New JC PG commit….with 4 to play 3.

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