Thursday, April 18, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Viko Noma’aea hadn’t played basketball in more than a year when he returned last month from serving a church mission in France.
Come this June, the former Sierra Vista High point guard will start practicing with Utah State, verbally committing to the school this week. The spring signing period started Wednesday; Noma’aea said he’ll sign Monday.
In 2011, Noma’aea averaged 17.7 points, 5.3 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game in leading Sierra Vista to the state semifinals. But standing just 6-foot, he was considered too small to play at the next level and not offered a college scholarship.
So, he opted to follow his heart onto the mission trail, where he frequently played soccer in his free time and lost much of his build in dropping to 162 pounds.
Back in Las Vegas, his father, a former college player and respected AAU coach, continued working on finding a place for his son to play. Utah State liked what they saw.
“I was back for a week and Utah State called my father to say (they were interested) in me,” Noma’aea said. “Utah State is giving me the opportunity to expose my talents. I couldn’t be happier.”
Noma’aea is quickly working to get back into playing shape. He’s already up to 185 pounds and confident he'll have success at Utah State.
“Leaving on my mission was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make,” he said. “I knew everything would work out with basketball and it finally did. It’s a blessing. I didn’t want to waste this opportunity.”
Three local basketball players signed Wednesday, including Las Vegas High guard Juwan Major inking with Southern Utah. Major was an all-Northeast Division selection last season for the Wildcats while averaging 14.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
He’s the third from his family to receive a college athletic scholarship. His twin sister, Diamond Major, signed with the UNLV women’s team during the fall signing period. His brother, Marquan Major, plays football for Idaho.
Also, two Gorman girls basketball players signed — April Rivers (Austin Peay State) and Tonishia Childress (Boise State).
Gorman seniors Rashad Muhammad and Trey Kennedy won’t sign until later in the period, Gaels coach Grant Rice said.
Muhammad will visit San Jose State Friday. He’s also considering Wyoming, where he visited two weeks ago.
Kennedy has offers from Southern Utah, Eastern Illinois, Mercer, Northeastern and LIU.