RICHMOND — It’s hard to come out of nowhere, expecially when you’re 6-foot-10 and still growing, yet Fardaws Aimaq got a tangible sign of how far he had come when the 2016 B.C. Triple-A finalists opened their new season in late November.
“The biggest thing I noticed was that in our very first game, everyone on the opposing team knew my name,” the dominating senior big man with the Steveston-London Sharks explains. “It was ‘Fardaws, make sure he doesn’t get the ball.’”
In anyone’s basketball world, sage advice to be sure.
Yet it’s a credit to Aimaq that one season after making a huge splash on the scene by leading the Sharks into the tier’s title tilt against Surrey’s Southridge Storm, he’s come back even stronger, averaging 27.5 points, 17.8 rebounds and 5.8 blocks per game despite a coterie of opposition defenders who have often times resorted to triple-team attention on the block to both slow his touch and to get under his skin.
“He joked before the season that he knew he was going to see double- and triple-teams on him all the time,” SLSS head coach Mike Stoneburgh says. “And he’s done well dealing with it.”
The numbers attest to that.
Last season, Aimaq’s totals were just slightly lower, but accomplished against a lot of single-team coverage.
But after playing high stakes games throughout the post-season with Steveston-London, then adding in a high-performance summer spent on the B.C. Under-17 team and with the AthElite club team, the 250-pound Aimaq is putting the touches on his game the post-secondary coaches were hoping for.
“The biggest thing for me going into the off-season was just working on my face-up game,” Aimaq says of broadening what was an effective, yet nonetheless, one-dimensional post-up game. “I worked on my mid-range jumper, my pick-and-pop, the pick-and-roll. I couldn’t do any of that last year and if I didn’t work on it, I wouldn’t be doing what I have been able to do this season.”
Yet beneath the veneer of his eye-popping numbers, which stuff stat sheets on a game-to-game basis — Aimaq has scored at least 10 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds in every senior varsity game he played the past two seasons — the big man has continued to build on success because he has admitted to a major failing in his game.
“Last year I took dumb, stupid fouls,” he begins. “I reacted to stuff that the opposition teams did. I know that a lot of things the opposing teams do are not often seen by the referees, so I knew I had to work on holding my cool and really just fighting through things.
“Stoney (Stoneburgh) sat me down and he said ‘You have to take them doing all of this stuff, all the pinching, the poking, stepping on my shoes, grabbing my jersey… take it as a sign of respect. They do that to you if they know they can’t beat you, and once I saw it from that perspective, it really helped things out.”
Yet the Triple-A No. 4-ranked Sharks are, at present, not the team they were last season, nor the one they know they can be heading into the Richmond playoffs.
“There are games where I look at the way we play and I just say ‘Wow’” Stoneburgh begins. “But then there are games where we still look like a work in progress, and it’s tough at this point of the season to be there. But they have to figure it out.”
Adds Aimaq: “The biggest thing we have to do is come together as teammates, because last year we hit a stretch where we won a bunch of tournaments and we used that momentum to push us through (the playoffs). Too many times, if we have a problem, we let the referees dictate what will happen in a game. If we can stop doing that and focus on just playing basketball and the things we can control, that will be a big factor in finding success.”
University programs on both sides of the border have taken notice of Aimaq, and just so they all know, doctors checked his growth plates back in Grade 9 and the prediction back then was 6-foot-11.
So yes, he’s still growing.
The biggest of the Sharks has a big future, but for now, he just wants to focus on getting his team back to the Big Dance, and making another long run at the Langley Events Centre.
If they do, then this time, Fardaws Aimaq will not have come out of nowhere.
Everyone knows his name now, and he seems determined to live up to it.
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