HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two of the key pieces from the Hawaii men's basketball team's historic season won't be around next year. Little more than a week after Stefan Jankovic announced his decision to forgo his senior season at UH and turn pro, Aaron Valdes followed suit announcing his intentions this morning in a statement.
"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," Valdes wrote. "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."
Valdes was second on the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 14.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game respectively. The Whittier, California native's career at UH began as a walk-on and ended as a Big West second-team selection along with a conference tournament MVP award. The NCAA sanctions and the postseason ban next season ultimately pushed Valdes to depart UH.
"Not being able to go to the postseason after what we did this year, and realistically, not having anything to do with what happened with those sanctions and for us to be punished for it was kind of hard," Valdes told Hawaii News Now. "It made the decision easier to have the sanctions there."
Valdez said his next step is to hire an agent, which will mean he can't return to UH or any other school, but transferring was never really an option in his eyes.
"Hawaii has done everything for me to help me get to where I am today," Valdes said. "For me to play for a different school, I just don't feel like I could do it. I just wanted to keep my loyalty to the school."
The other two juniors, Mike Thomas and Stefan Jovanovic, have yet to announce their decisions.
Here is Valdes' full statement:
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!