Sacha Killeya-Jones still considers himself a Chapel Hill resident, even though his time in the area is limited to returning home to his family during school breaks from a Virginia boarding school.
But beginning next year his homecomings will be as a Kentucky basketball player. He signed with the Wildcats as one of the top recruits in the nation during the early November period.
“I still live in Chapel Hill,” said Killeya-Jones, who added his family moved to the area from New Jersey when he was 8 years old.
Killeya-Jones plays for Virginia Episcopal School, a boarding school in Lynchburg, along with two other players from the Triangle. Justice Kithcart and Kevin Quinn are both from Durham.
He is the son of Ley Killeya-Jones and Reggie Jones of Chapel Hill. His brother Stefan, 12, plays with the JV basketball team at Smith Middle School.
Like his younger brother, Killeya-Jones played rec league football and OPAC basketball when he attended McDougle Middle School, 2010-12. He played basketball and JV football as a freshman at Woodberry Forest before growing five inches taller and enrolling at Virginia Episcopal School, where he was coached by former Cavalier basketball player Curtis Staples.
The 6-foot-10, 210-pound power forward’s latest homecoming was a chance to participate in the 44th annual High SchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational at Broughton High over the holiday break. The chance to play in the area high school basketball institution was special to Killeya-Jones.
“When I was younger we went one year,” Killeya-Jones recalled. “But the lines were too long and we couldn’t get in.”
The Bishops finished in fifth place of the elite HSOT.com tournament. In the fifth-place game against Concord Robinson, Killeya-Jones overcame foul trouble to score 26 points in the second half and finish with 29.
Kentucky coach John Calipari has compared Killeya-Jones’ lanky build and fluid skills to Marcus Camby, an All-American for him at Massachusetts that went on to play 18 NBA seasons.
“One of the reasons I committed to Kentucky is I’ll be practicing against some of the best players in the country,” Killeya-Jones said. “That was a big thing for me. I want to play against the best. That’s the best way to get better. That’s what I really want to do.”
Killeya-Jones took a roundabout path to Kentucky. While living in Chapel Hill in his middle school years, his sport was football and he was gaining a reputation as a quarterback prospect.
In fact, he originally left the area as a freshman to attend Woodberry Forest, a Virginia boarding school known for football. But then he grew five inches over the summer after his freshman year. Once he switched his focus to basketball, he enrolled at Virginia Episcopal as a junior.
His first verbal commitment was to Virginia, but with his improvement, he re-opened his recruitment. His offers included North Carolina and N.C. State. He verbally committed to Kentucky in June.
“I’ve seen him develop at a fast pace,” Virginia Episcopal coach Curtis Staples said. “He understands his flaws and wants to work on them. A lot of kids don’t work on the things they need to improve when they’re in high school.”
He improved enough for a homecoming to the Holiday Invitational that he had longed to see.