As the NCAA men’s Div. 1 regular season draws towards its completion, the microscope trained one of B.C.’s high school basketball’s most remarkable grads has continued to intensify.
Yet nothing is slowing down the per-game rebounding average of former Steveston-London grad Fardaws Aimaq, the 6-foot-11, 260-pound redshirt sophomore centre with the Utah Valley Wolverines.
With four more Western Athletic Conference regular season contests remaining, Aimaq continues to not only lead NCAA Div. 1 in rebounding at 15.5 per game, the pace he is setting has not been seen since the late 1970s.
To put it all into some kind of perspective, if Aimaq maintains his current rebounding average and winds up topping the NCAA Div. 1 chart for the season, that 15.5 RPG would be the highest first-place average in 42 years, since the 1978-79 season when Monti Davis of Tennessee State averaged 16.2 per game.
“He’s putting those numbers up against everybody and so what he is doing is, he’s leading the country in rebounding and maybe will have the highest RPG for the last four decades,” begins Fraser Valley Cascades’ head coach Joe Enevoldson, who coached Aimaq on the B.C. provincial team in the summers prior to his Grade 11 and 12 seasons. “He is making himself known and doing something that just translates over to the professional level at a very high rate. He’s gobbling up everything.”
The closest any D1 players have come to averaging even 15 rebounds per game this century?
Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried (14.5 RPG) in 2010-11, and Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin (14.4) in 2008-09.
So while B.C. teams have been kept on the sidelines this season due to the global pandemic, coaches around this province have had time to sit back, watch and marvel at the exploits of the 2017 SLS Sharks grad.
“When he came out of high school, I told some of my coaching colleagues at the university level that I could not understand for the life of me why no one was going after him,” began Langara Falcons head coach Paul Eberhardt, himself a longtime former head coach in the Richmond School District at both McNair and Palmer.
“Honestly, a lot of people were worried about his body and his physical conditioning, but I can remember talking to an assistant coach from (University of) Portland at the B.C.’s,” continued Eberhardt of the Div. 1 school from the West Coast Conference. “He was stunned that he was the only Div. 1 coach there.”
Such comments bring back shades of March 1992 when then-Santa Clara assistant coach Dick Davey scanned the stands at the PNE Agrodome and realized that no one else stateside was aware of a certain SMUS point guard named Steve Nash.
And while rebounding averages are certainly not the final arbiter of any player’s overall value on the court, it’s hard for anyone to argue that there isn’t something uniquely special about Aimaq’s on-court presence.
“You could see it in high school,” said Eberhardt. “He has soft hands, impeccable hand-eye coordination, and his understanding of how to block shots and get in position for a rebound was pretty remarkable.”
“What he is doing is special… it’s amazing,” added Simon Fraser head coach Steve Hanson. “We’ve been following his rebounding totals, and that is the biggest thing I think of… following him in high school and the knack and the nose he showed for the ball.
“We’ve had our share of great high school scorers here in B.C. over the last few years,” Hanson continued, “but seeing Fardaws doing what he is doing as a rebounder, at the level he is playing at now, shows what a special player he is.”
All three coaches remember very well just how dominant Aimaq was on the boards during his team’s 2016 run to the B.C. Triple A final during his 2015-16 Grade 11 season.
In an 84-82 Final Four semifinal win over Abbotsford’s Rick Hansen Hurricanes, Aimaq scored 30 points and grabbed 31 rebounds.
In the 78-71 title-game loss to Surrey’s Southridge Storm, he had 40 points and 32 rebounds.
With that in mind, there is no question that his greatest skill has made a most seamless transition to the top level of the U.S. collegiate game. That, and the fact that he has as many as two more collegiate seasons remaining puts his ceiling even higher, giving him the time to continue to work on all facets of his game.
Yet at the heart of it all is his ability to consistently rebound the ball, even on those nights when his 14.4 PPG scoring touch is affected by intense multiple defences.
Take a game like Utah Valley’s 69-66 win this past Friday at New Mexico State as the perfect example.
The double- and triple-teams thrown by the Aggies limited Aimaq to just two shots and six points from the field. Yet he still grabbed 17 rebounds and dished five assists,
“Obviously, the amount of points you score get glorified and of course they are important, but having the ball for the opportunity to get those points… that’s pretty important, too,” stressed Eberhardt of the fact that Aimaq has proven his ability to never fully be taken out of games. “You can’t replace rebounding. It’s so critical to your team’s success.”
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