RICHMOND — NCAA Div. 1 basketball’s most prodigious single-season rebounder in over 40 years is set to test the waters leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft, this season scheduled for July 29 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Richmond native Fardaws Aimaq, the 6-foot-11, 245 pound rising redshirt junior centre with the Utah Valley University Wolverines, who this past season averaged 13.9 points and a D1-best 15.0 rebounds per game, announced Wednesday that he was entering this season’s draft proceedings, but was doing so without initially forgoing any of his future eligibility.
And while the 2017 Steveston-London Secondary grad has until July 19 to either finalize or withdraw his name from the eligible draft pool, pending feedback from NBA clubs, the time between now and then is going to be among the most intense periods of training in the 22-year-old’s life as he throws himself head-first into the gruelling pre-draft process.
“I sat down with my family and my coaches after the season, and realized that the next step in my mind is to play at the highest level possible,” Aimaq told VarsityLetters.ca on Thursday morning, referencing the amount of sweat equity he will invest over the next three months, a span of time distinctly lacking set dates due to the pandemic, but one which he feels will put his skill-set and love of the game front-and-centre with NBA teams.
“I really felt it was important to get myself in front of those teams… for them to see me in person, for them to work me out,” Aimaq stated. “You can’t do that without putting your name in, so I decided to do it, and then get the best feedback possible.”
Of course, there might not have been a better example of a player who rose from the shadows to the top of the boards as a consistently reliable double-double scorer and rebounder than Aimaq, who not only helped the Wolverines to their first Western Athletic Conference title since 2014, but was also named WAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
He even registered on the ballots of several national awards, and won the Riley Wallace Award, emblematic of top transfer in all of Div. 1 men’s basketball.
It’s hard to imagine a better position to be in than the one Aimaq finds himself in these days, despite the fact that the pandemic has played havoc with the NBA’s ability to put firm dates on the pre-draft workout process.
“So as of right now, I’ve got to wait on a couple of things,” continued Aimaq, who has recently returned to his Lulu Island digs for some home cooking and daily workouts with his trainer. “COVID has made things tough. Teams can’t put exact dates on things, and teams are waiting on protocols. They don’t know if they can bring multiple dudes in, or if they are going to be individual workouts.
“Our plan is to hopefully get a couple of individual workouts, and for sure do a pro day in front of all the teams, get some feedback and go from there.”
Making the experience such a win-win for Aimaq is the educational process he will go through before determining if he will remain in the draft pool or elect to pull out and test the waters again in 2022.
The NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Program will help him make the most informed decision possible.
The committee, prior to the early-entry deadline, notifies team executives with the names of players requesting feedback on their draft status.
As a recent ESPN story very neatly summed: “Players are then informed of the consensus reached by weighing the NBA executives’ responses and offering feedback on whether the player is likely to be a lottery pick, a first-rounder, a second-rounder or undrafted.”
Said Aimaq: “If I end up falling into a certain pick that I like, then that happens. But if not, I have the option to come back to school and do it again next year. It was the best decision. Not a lot of people get that opportunity so I am excited to get the chance, and hopefully reach my goal of playing in the NBA.”
And while Aimaq is not resting on his stats, leading all of Div. 1 hoops at 15.0 rebounds-per-game is a calling card that can’t help but demand attention.
“At the end of the day, I know the type of player I am,” he said. “But I just want to get the feedback that I need. If teams think ‘OK, we’re ready to draft you,’ or ‘Hey, you need another year,’ I’m going to take that feedback to heart, get better and go from there.
“It’s a no-lose situation,” he added.
And although he’s correctly listed on this season’s Utah Valley roster as a redshirt sophomore, count Aimaq’s year of prep school stateside and he’s actually four total seasons into his post-B.C. high school career.
“So I am ready for anything that comes my way,” Aimaq says with the voice of a veteran. “It’s been a great journey the last couple of years. It’s going to be a hard process, but once I get in front of those scouts, I am hopefully going to turn some heads.”
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