Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Valdes announces decision to turn pro


Aaron Valdes was perhaps the highest jumper in recent University of Hawai’i basketball history, so it is fitting that he will continue to reach for the sky.

Valdes announced on Thursday that he will forgo his senior season to pursue a professional career in basketball. His full statement can be seen below.

Valdes has been a student-athlete at UH for the past four years (he redshirted during the 2012-13 season), and is on track to graduate this year.

UH head coach Eran Ganot said: “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 Hawai’i will always be home for him.”

He recently completed his junior season, finishing second on the team in both scoring (14.1 points per game) and rebounding (5.5 per game). He finished his career at UH with 975 points, which ranks 18th in program history.

Valdes is the second player from the record-setting 2015-16 team to announce intentions to turn professional a year early. Teammate Stefan Jankovic previously announced that he will forgo his senior season to play professional basketball.

Here is the full statement from Valdes:

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 hav emade 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 Morinaga, 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 andhelped me make some really difficult decisions. None of this would have been possiblewithout 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


  1. Quick recap.. 4 of 5 starters and best bench scorer gone.

    Next up are Mike Thomas and Steph Jovanovic + any backup looking for an escape.

    I wish Valdes the best. Like what I said about Jankovic, no hard feelings at all. Other than going for BWC MVP, there isn’t much more Valdes can achieve at UH, even if they win the appeal. Valdes’ athleticism and ability to play good on-ball D will get him looks at the next level. He’s got the offensive skill set to succeed in the pros.

    The areas of improvement are pretty clear: 1. He must get more consistent on offense. 2. He must continue to refine his shot making. 3. Must improve finishing ability in the paint.

    Again, it comes down to increasing the effort to improve and latching on with a quality agent that can get him to a D-League roster so he can prove himself.

  2. Mahalo AV.. You’re contributions to this team and school will be remembered and treasured here in the form of your countless highlight reel dunks!!

    One statistic that wasn’t counted in the other article was most SC Top 10 plays and you got that hands down lol.. Good luck in the pros, and will be following your career closely as well.

    Btw, which other Juniors are getting their degrees this summer? We knew Janks and AV were getting theirs, yet it still heart-breaking when they announce! 🙁 So much talent has left this team, 4 starters! Please, make it stop…lol

  3. Wonderful letter from a young man who truly represented UH as an outstanding student athlete !

    His departure is bitter sweet as another year can go a long way with his development as a player and keeping Hawaii successful on and off the court. I understand his disappointment pertaining to UH probation which he has nothing to do with the infractions that took forth from past coaches and players. Very proud of him staying being a walk on from the beginnings and then improving his skill level becoming outstanding in the conference and then MVP of the tournament. Wish nothing but great success for him as I enjoyed watching his high flying dunks and that nice easy jump shot from his athletic 6’4″ game !

    Mahalo Aaron Valdes for representing UH with class and respect. You will be missed !

  4. Good luck to all those leaving the program. You have represented the U of H well and helped in returning B-ball back on the map. Stay the course and chase your dreams.

  5. Mahalo, Aaron, for your contributions in helping elevate and validate the Hawaii basketball program. It was a joy to witness your development the past four years. Your skill level is only surpassed by your character.

    Best of luck as you pursue your hoops dreams, and remember that Hawaii will always be here, and welcome you with open arms.

  6. Gonna miss those monster one handed ally oop jams!! Mahalo Aaron! Such an awesome all around player!

  7. Aaron was a valuable member of what will be remembered as a great team that broke new ground in its many accomplishments, especially winning the Big West and advancing beyond the first round in the Big Dance, We’ll always remember Aaron’s monster dunks that brought the crowd to its feet. Most importantly besides getting his degree this year, he was a great team player, a good person, and someone who will always be welcomed in Hawaii.

    Wishing Aaron success in his future basketball endeavors!!

  8. It’s kind of getting sad Thank you Aaron and good luck

  9. Two announced, at least 2 more underclassmen to announce leaving soon (already been decided a while ago). These two in mind are not turning pro. But only one is transferring. Gonna be a very new-look team next year!
    Thank you AV for your contributions, and we wish you well in the future!!
    Have confidence that coach will bring back success. If not this year or the next, by the third year, we will be just fine. Son and I will be giving our 110% support next season. We hope you all do as well!!

  10. AV: The Most Inspirational Player.
    Certainly in terms of getting me out of the house to go exercise. Haven’t been able to dunk yet. But I think that inspiration will last for a while.
    First need for new recruits: players who can jump out of the building, and inspire others to do so as well.

  11. Good luck to Valdes. Not surprising that the two guys that are graduating decided to leave.

  12. We will miss our high flyer… Aaron . Aloha brother wherever you go in life the 808 will always be with you.

  13. Thank you Aaron for your hard work and dedication. I think all fans are hoping that one day we can turn on the tv and see you playing. Who knows fate; but we know your all out determination. And that’s all we can ask of any player. It’s all in the hands of the beholder. Good luck.

  14. Webleedgreen: so you’re saying that two more are gone, but neither are turning pro, and only one is transferring? Is one of them quitting basketball altogether? I’m assuming this is Mike and Stef? I don’t get it.

  15. Very nicely written letter. Awesome player who provided a lot of excitement at games! So happy that he stayed through three coaching changes and a NCAA investigation. Only regret is not being able to honor Aaron, Janks and other non-seniors. Best of luck!

    My guess on which underclassmen are leaving: Stepteau, Filipovich and Cornelissen.

    Despite all these departures, I’m excited for next season!

  16. When was the last time we had a four year, non-redshirt senior basketball player stick it until the end? Anyone?

  17. Good luck to Aaron he spent four years here is graduating and has nothing to gain by spending another one here.
    This allows Coach Ganot to bring in a new wing players and get them experience that they wouldn’t have gotten with Aaron eating all the minutes and that will pay off big time in 2017 when hawaii will be back dancing.

  18. Tavs … Hiram Thompson, played four years ending in 2011 with a 2 yr mission break after his frosh season. Bobby Nash, 4 years ending in 2008 but one medical redshirt year.
    Valdes not graduating yet, i think he said on the radio.
    Amanda, among others, was thanked not withstanding comments by some posters awhile ago.

  19. AV, truly enjoyed your game and time here at UH. You were without a doubt the Human Highlight of the this team. I know Bobbitt’s eyes were always looking for you.

    Aside from your true talents on the court, it will be hard to forget “The Letter” that your mother wrote when things were very up in the air a year ago October. I do believe that was a factor in keeping everyone together and the results will be remembered for sometime.

    Truly hope the very best for you, but know that with the Ohana you have in California and Hawaii, you have a great foundation for doing whatever you set your mind towards.

    Much success and mahalo.


  20. Thanks, Islandman! So, Hiram Thompson is the only four-year basketball player who did not redshirt to play at UH in the past 10+ years? Wow. I hope Ganot can change that. In any case, Thomas and Jovanovic still have the potential to be part of that tiny pool of players.

  21. S23A,
    Not at liberty to say exactly who/what, but I’ll just say you are incorrect as to who…
    Neither Mike nor big stef are quitting basketball.

  22. Since everyone’s guessing, I will guess that the transfer is between Filipovitch or Drammeh and the person quitting would be between Stepteau or Buscher.

  23. Oops, forgot to wish the best and mahalo to AV. Can’t blame him for leaving. I hope he’s going to finish up getting his degree.

  24. Good luck to all leaving I was a Ganot fan but question why all are leaving There is more to this than being told I lost respect for coaches at the dance Think this will be my last post

  25. Aaron has to return in a future semester to complete an internship to finish his degree, per McInnis.
    Niko retiring ?

  26. Awhile ago webleedgreen said the player leaving, but not for basketball reasons, is a scholarship holder.

  27. Brian McInnis Retweeted
    Drew Buggs ‏@_DrizzyDrew_ 18h ago

    Thank you for all the prayers and well wishes. My surgery went well today and I am excited about making a full recovery. God is Good!

  28. if you read here and elsewhere, it becomes fairly obvious that one of Stef or Mike are transferring, and that Niko is retiring. WeBleedGreen may not be at liberty to say, but unless i’m way off here, he really gave this one away.

  29. Oh, yes I will miss the highlight reel dunks…

    I hope Ganot can land another high-flyer. Valdes definitely helped refill the SSC during his time at UH.

  30. Also, Jack and Sheriff are scholarship holders .

  31. xer21, WeBleedGreen’s most recent comment about transfers says TWO UNDERCLASSMEN are leaving. He didn’t specify if they’re scholarship players though.

    Scholie underclassmen: Jack Purchase, Niko Filipovich, Sheriff Drammeh
    Walk-ons: Cornelissen, Stepteau, Buscher

    I can see why any of the players would leave.

    Purchase: pro opportunity in Australia
    Niko: sees limited playing time with three good guards coming in and Drammeh granted more playing time this past season
    Drammeh: Far from Sweden, perhaps pro opportunity in Sweden (he’s already on the junior national team)

    Cornelissen: no playing time, didn’t travel with team
    Stepteau: limited playing time, no scholie. Could be great D2 player.
    Buscher: limited playing time – wasn’t he offered D2 scholarships (HPU, Chaminade)?

  32. 03 Niko Filipovich, PG, 6-0/160 RsJr
    04 Jack Purchase, SF, 6-9/215, RsSo, 3S ESPN
    13 Jakob Cormelissen, G, 6-1/165, RsFr (Walk-on)
    21 Brock Stepteau, G, RsSo (Walk-on)
    22 Sheriff Drammeh, 6-3/ SG, So
    24 Zach Buscher, G, 6-3, RsSo (Walk-on)
    25 *Mike Thomas, F, 6-8/215 Sr, 2S ESPN
    33 *Stefan Jovanovic, C, 6-10/235, Sr, 2S ESPN
    00 Matthew Owies, PG, 6-0/180, Fr (Class of 2016)
    00 Drew Buggs ,CG, 6-2/175, Fr (Class of 2016)-NLI signed, 3S Scout/ESPN
    00 Leland Green SG, 6-3/, Fr Redondo Union HS, CA (Class of 2016) 3S ESPN/Scout/Rivals/247Sports

    Per coach Ganot “we’re now targeting a couple big guys to establish our inside presence.”

    If Thomas and Jovanovic decide to return for their senior year, this could be the starting lineup:

    Point guard Drew Buggs
    Shooting guard Leland Green
    Small forward Jack Purchase
    Power forward Mike Thomas
    Center Stefan Jovanovic

    Three guards coming off the bench: Sheriff Drammeh (depending on how Buggs/Green perform could start at either point or shooting guard; Filipovich, and Owies

    Big problem: No post players coming off the bench, unless Ganot bring in a couple “big guys to establish our inside presence”.

    Bigger problem if Thomas or Jovanovic decides to transfer.

  33. Thanks to AV for being one of the few to stick it out for 4 years and bringing Hawaii ball back to the NCAA’s. You could’ve easily left like a lot of your fellow Gib Arnold recruits but you showed Hawaii a lot of loyalty.

    I knew from last season that our team was going to do special things this season and that’s why I missed work and broke the bank to fly up to Anaheim and Spokane with my son to watch history be made and it was worth every penny.

    Best of luck in your future and no matter what you have your degree so you will always have that to fall back on that nobody can take that away from you.

  34. @Seasider: If and that’s a big IF Thomas and Stef do return then out team won’t be that bad. That also depends on how Owies, Buggs and Green perform and our bench would be weak but still, having Thomas and Stef stay would somewhat help out team stay competitive in the BW. Maybe not win it but stay in the upper half of the standings imo.

  35. JC player Norbertas Giga, has offer from UH, if Verbal Commits site is true. 6-10, 245 from Lithuania.

  36. I think there will be some interest in recruiting now that key players have graduated or left the team. Scholarships are opening up where there were none or few available. After the great season we had there has to be some interest in players wanting to take a second look at Hawaii especially the JUCCO route. Next season is a rebuilding year and of course we can’t expect to be chasing championships. But next year we should be reloaded and ready to take on anyone. The Big West like the other conferences does not have a marquee team such as Gonzaga in the Mountain West or Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference. Ganot and company could become that team to carry the mantel in the Big West.

  37. On the good news front: Mike Thomas is returning!

  38. Servante: I agree that it’s possible we could reload instead of rebuilt for next season but all depends on how Owies, Buggs, and Green pan out and IF we can land a solid PG and Big from JUCCO. Not saying it will happen but it’s very possible imo.

    Also, it’s a cool thought to think that UH could one day be considered a high mid-major “marquee” team similar to Gonzaga (WCC) & Wichita st. (MVC) but we still have a while to go before doing that. I still think UCI has the edge on that status as of now but we could become that “name” team one day if we make it back to the NCAA more often (other than every 14 years). Maybe like every 3 or 4 years.

  39. Happy to hear that Mike Thomas has decided to come back next season. Any experience and leadership that we can keep is really helpful. Like I mentioned in a previous post if Stefan decided to come back too, UH wouldn’t be that far behind to be competitive in the BW again next season. I know that we won’t really have anyone to equally replace Janks, Bobbitt,Valdez, and Smith but if Buggs, Green, Owies, and Purchase perform well then we have a better chance with MT and Stefan coming back.

  40. Mike is staying!!!

  41. JMO, some of the stuff uhfanzonly1 is sharing is a mystery. Coach has 11 scholies, it makes the best sense to recruit the BEST players available. Appreciate both Zach and Brock but, are they the best players available??? Personally, believe we need and want more….if we want to continue to grow and spell success.

    JMO opinion but, believe TEAM includes Coaches and players, in our case, don’t understand why anyone points out that there is a separation of “Ganot did a good job, the team did an even better job.”

    From a noted coach, you can be the best coach in the country but without talent you are not going to win. With two less scholarships, it is crucial we recruit the best available players.

  42. Another prospect that has some interest in UH is Braian Angola-Rodas, a 6’6″ SG out of North Idaho College. Not sure if Ganot offered him, but he took a recent visit to Texas Tech last month. Houston, Utah State and other schools also has interest.

  43. Seasider: In that scenario, Owies isnt coming off the bench. Buggs is more of a wing, and he probably isnt playing next year anyways because of his surgery, but even if he did, Owies would be starting at point in any scenario with that personnel.

  44. He was offered by UH, per verbal commits site. Plays for same JC as Austin Pope did.

  45. It will be Drew’s decision to redshirt or play next season even if he misses some early games.
    What do you think that kid will do, Sit or play? seems obvious to me he’s a tough minded kid and very competitive!

  46. I dont think he’s going to have the choice. acl surgery is no joke and offseason workouts start in the summer. he wont be ready until more than half way through the season, he just had the surgery in april.

  47. and that’s IF he recovers on time.

  48. You act like he won’t be going through theraphy and work outs himself/
    100 percent recovery from an ACL tear depends on each athlete some recover much quicker than others I know a womans basketball player at Oklahoma, that was 100 percent recovered in 5 months!!

  49. yeah, but 6 months is highly unusual and 9 months is more realistic. and that puts him at february…where he’ll need to get back into shape.

  50. Trust me no kid wants to redshirt and sit all year if they can play. If he is cleared to play and only misses like 8-10 games, He’s probably playing. If Buggs redshirts there’s a chance we only get him for 3 years like Valdes.

  51. Who is this warriorfan3 person?? I think I need a new moniker… three warriorfans is too much lol

  52. Warriorfan, he’s not going to only miss 8-10 games though. his target date is generously at february. that’s at least 20 games his missing and he’ll be out of shape to boot.

  53. We don’t know when he will be cleared though, everyone is different. He could be cleared by October, you never know.

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