Jessiya Villa was born and spent his early years in Hawaii. When his father, former Kamehameha hoops standout Kahi Villa, moved the family to Virginia, Jessiya had no idea what the future would hold.
Today, he is back in Hawaii as a senior at Kahuku, playing for his uncle, Coach Brandyn Akana. The Red Raiders are coming off a remarkable third-place finish at the ‘Iolani Prep Classic, the highest finish by an island team since ‘Iolani took third in 2006. Kahuku upset Mount Vernon (N.Y.), De La Salle (Calif.) and Southwind (Tenn.) to finish highest among the “normal” high school teams, and Villa’s court leadership as a point guard was one of the key factors.
Below, a Q&A via text with Villa, accompanied by follow-up questions by phone.
6-0, 175, Sr.
Q&A / Favorites
– My Father (William “Kahi” Villa)
“He plays basketball once in awhile. Other than that, he’s just working. He used to do player development back in the mainland. That was pretty much it. His high school career, he was known for his hops. Played at BYU-Hawaii, played professional basketball in the Philippines. He also played baseball (Toronto Blue Jays system). His career is pretty superior.”
– San Antonio Spurs
“I value them because of how disciplined and how they reincarnate the term team basketball, how they execute the plays. Pop (Greg Popovich) is such a legendary coach, extraordinary the way he’s elevated the NBA and basketball, I love how their players develop. They blew out Chicago last night and Kawhi Leonard is just a beast.”
Favorite food (at home):
“A common mixed fruit bowl, grapes, oranges, pears, bananas, all of that makes me the happiest man. Fruit is like my candy, which I haven’t eaten in two years. I’ve felt much more happy with my body. I haven’t eaten candy in two years. No soda.”
Moderation is good. Do you cheat a little once in awhile? What about Slurpees?
“I love Slurpees.”
Favorite food (eating out):
– Chicken Alfredo w/ Shrimp
“Doesn’t matter where I eat out, though I don’t eat out a lot. On the mainland, there’s the Olive Garden. I’m not picky, as long as there’s a variety of food that’s healthy.”
What can you cook?
– Food that will satisfy anyone’s hunger.
That sounds kind of vague.
“I like to keep my techniques in my cooking skills on the down low. I can cook from breakfast foods to desserts to dinners. My mom taught me a lot of cooking. I used to watch her and my grandmother. I inherited a lot of skill.”
Favorite hobby outside of sports:
– Reading Books & Spending Time w/ Family
“I’m currently reading “11 Rings” by Phil Jackson, explaining his career and his coaching tactics, coaching Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, hall-of-famers. I like books about coaches and their ideas, with a background.
“I read Harry Potter, the whole series. I enjoyed it. I like interesting stories. Shout out to all the people who write the books that I read.”
– The Blind Side / Insidious I, II, & III
“Insidious is a horror movie, I enjoy scary movies. Before I came here, I went to a couple of haunted houses on the mainland and I didn’t jump at all. I like to see things ahead of time, so I expect someone to grab me (in a haunted house). I like documentaries based on true stories.”
Favorite TV show:
– Martin & Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been watching these sit-coms. Now I’m grown up and I’m still watching them today.”
Favorite music artist:
– Bruno Mars/J. Cole
“I listen to a variety of music on the bus. Before the game, usually people listen to uptempo music, hip hop, rap. I listen to some of that, but before a game, I listen to Classical, slow-jam music from the 1990s. I just enjoy the Tevin Campbells, Isley Brothers.”
Favorite teacher (elem through HS):
– Mr. Hammond (8th Grade Teacher), South Middle School, Martinsburg (Va.)
“I admire him the most because he would help me with my finals, always helping me if I got in trouble. He took me under his wing and helped me become the man I am today. I wish I had contact with him today.”
Favorite class (elem through HS):
– Business & Marketing (9th-11th)
Favorite place to relax:
– In a Gym
– Scripture: (Psalms 34:4) “I sought the Lord, & he heard me, & delivered me from all my fears.”
– Motto: (Kevin Durant) “Hard work beat talent, when talent fails to work hard.”
“I relate to what he said. I rarely, rarely play pickup basketball. It’s not the fear of getting hurt, but who can stick to the fundamentals and who doesn’t want to do the fundamentals. That’s what you’re always going to refer back to.”
HPW: Kevin Durant is known for being big on fundamentals, 90 percent of his time as a kid and even now is about drills and only 10 percent on pick-up games.
JV: “I would say 95 percent of the time for me would be on drills, maybe some 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 5-on-5 once in awhile. But drills hare huge in my improvement as a player.”
What your mom (Suelan Villa) always says that you can’t forget:
-“Don’t forget who you’re representing.”
What your dad (William “Kahi” Villa) always says that you can’t forget:
– “If working hard was easy, anybody could do it.”
“My father always told me there’s only a select few people with the desire to work hard. I’m a witness to that. Samuta (Avea)’s a witness to that. My dad’s a witness to that. There would be no complaining these days, but that’s not the case. Rely on God and let the chips fall where they’re supposed to fall.”
What is the history or background of your first and last name?
– “Jessiya”, w/ rearranged spelling, came from the Bible.
– “Villa” resembles hard work and the glory and impact my ancestors left on this culture.
How does basketball affect your daily life during the season and offseason?
– My plate is always extremely full; however, I ensure my priorities are always on point. The majority of my day is engulfed w/ Basketball. It’s still only something I do, not who I am.
Your earliest memories of basketball when you started playing:
– I’ve been playing this game since I was 5, PAL League in Hawaii.
HPW: Where was the league and your team at?
JV: “Kailua. I played in the miniature PAL league with the Lakers. We ended up winning the whole darn thing. I still remember the whole game to this day. I wish there was a video.”
What do you like to do — or what’s something you’re good at — that would surprise most people?
– I’d say if I didn’t want it to be a surprise to most people.
What are your ultimate dream and bucket list goals?
– Play this sport Professionally
– Purchase a Panda
– Develop a Foundation for a less fortunate country or two.
“If I could one day, I’d definitely purchase a panda. Let it live in a zoo. I just want to be able to visit it whenever I want.”
What would change if you were flat broke, had no family and nowhere to live?
– Nothing would change, I’d still be the same ‘Jessiya Villa’.
What would change if you had $1 million?
– I’d save it; I don’t have time to make BIG purchases as of now.
What does it mean to represent Kahuku basketball today?
– It defines a love & family-oriented culture; whenever I put on a jersey with “Kahuku” across of the front, I put in perspective my ancestors, family, and this community, and how I play for them.