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Villa has own Hoop Dreams in White House


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POSTED: Thursday, March 05, 2009

Who's the best basketball player working in the White House?

“;He is definitely not,”; William Villa says. “;And I am definitely not.”;

“;He”; is former Punahou forward Barack Obama.

Villa, 32, better known in Hawaii as Kahi, is a United States Secret Service agent on the presidential detail.

“;We've got so many former pro athletes, guys who played at a higher level,”; Kahi says of his colleagues.

Villa can't reveal too much about his duties—it is, after all, the Secret Service. Above all, they're there to protect the prez, and that includes discussion discretion.

He starts work at midnight these days, meaning the leader of the free world and his family can sleep in peace because of Villa and the other agents on his shift.

Kahi scored the winning points the last time Kamehameha won the state hoops championship, in 1992. He's widely considered one of the islands' best high school athletes of his decade, and he went on to the rarity of playing pro in two sports—baseball in the minor leagues and basketball in the Philippines.

His dad, Chaminade athletic director Bill Villa, never imagined Kahi doing what he does now.

“;But I also never thought he'd play pro basketball,”; Bill Villa said. “;Ever since he was a little boy, he'd set a goal and work really hard toward that goal.”;

Obama's team won a state basketball crown, too, in 1979. Agents don't chat with the commander-in-chief, but you just know “;Imua”; and “;Go Buffs”; are exchanged under their breath at times. There's no generation gap or position protocol when it comes to Interscholastic League of Honolulu rivalries.

Despite many good teams, Kamehameha has won states just twice after a 3-out-of-4 run ending in 1965. Kahi's uncle, Mike, played on the 1976 team that took it all. Kahi and his wife have five children, and their genes are full of basketball talent—Suelan is the sister of Jarinn, Brandyn and Trenson Akana.

Villa considers Kamehameha's effort this week a family affair.

“;They're like my little brothers,”; Kahi says of Warriors coach Jesse Nakanishi, and his twin brother, Julian. “;We played together two years.”;

The twins weren't on the varsity yet, but Jesse remembers the excitement of the '92 championship game that went to three overtimes before Kamehameha prevailed against Hilo, 76-73.

“;Kahi was a great leader and fun to play with,”; Nakanishi says. “;He was the best player and also the hardest worker.”;

Villa possesses vivid memories of the winning play.

“;It was a 3-on-2 situation, Louie (Vargas) has the ball in the middle and throws me a bounce pass, I catch it, and I'm scoring, just like you do in practice,”; he said. “;And I'm thinking, I just won the game. There were 11 seconds left, and I got fouled. I wasn't a good free-throw shooter, but that one went right through the middle of the basket, and that was the final score.”;

He might get another very memorable basketball moment soon.

“;There's mention of letting us play with (Obama),”; Villa says. “;Before he was president, it was looser, who could play. It's hard to find people that are clean (approved) now.”;

He's watched many times.

We've seen snippets, but not enough to really tell. Does the president really have any game at all?

Kahi Villa won't say.

That's a secret.