Fardaws Aimaq
Staying level-headed during a busy offseason is what it's about for Fardaws Aimaq. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Amidst the Craziness, Fardaws Aimaq is Taking Things in Stride

Fardaws Aimaq has made a name for himself over the past two seasons at Utah Valley. The ‘Big Maple’ as he is known from Vancouver, British Columbia has averaged a double-double over the past two seasons in Orem.

In that time, Aimaq has won back-to-back WAC Defensive Player of the Year awards. Aimaq also led Utah Valley to a share of the 2020-21 regular season crown. And, in averaging 15.0 rebounds in 2020-21, Aimaq did something no other player has done in 40 years.

Along with all of this, Aimaq set the WAC single-season record for rebounds. Aimaq pulled down 254 rebounds in WAC play. It breaks Paul Millsap’s record at Louisiana Tech set in 2005-06. Aimaq was three rebounds away from setting the overall season record which Millsap still holds.

So, when news broke that Aimaq was entering the transfer portal on March 18, a lot of pundits came out of the woodwork.

“A lot of people were surprised that I basically had every school in the country blowing up my phone,” Aimaq said. “That just goes to show that a lot of people haven’t been following me the last couple of years. The one thing a lot of people really didn’t know who I was until I hit the portal.”

As you can see, Fardaws Aimaq is a household commodity. New Mexico State fans have been garnering for him to come to Las Cruces. And most schools in America would love to have arguably the best big man in the country coming to an arena near them next season.

But, fans need to understand, transferring to another school is not the first priority. Following a monster sophomore season at Utah Valley in 2020-21, Aimaq took some time to test the NBA Draft waters. Getting feedback from draft experts, teams and so forth was a big step for Big Maple. Aimaq took the advice given to him through those workouts and became even better in 2021-22. Having transformed his body and working on his 3-point shot, Aimaq averaged 18.9 points and 13.6 rebounds. This coming despite facing double and triple teams night in and night out.

Now, Fardaws Aimaq is focusing on his ultimate goal of playing professional basketball in the NBA.

“For me, honestly, it was more just exploring the options,” Aimaq said. “What possibly might be there if I don’t like where I stand in front of the pro evaluators? I feel like I earned that right over the last couple of years to at least explore those options. I feel like it was just something that had to be done. Just to give myself the best possible chance of achieving my goal. Playing professional basketball in the NBA.”

Aimaq went on further, talking about the possibility of returning to the collegiate level.

“After being evaluated and going through these workouts, and seeing if I can squeeze my way into a number that I like, could really change things. Once I go through and hear where evaluators have me listed, then I would make the decision at that time, ‘Do I want to do this or do I want to come back and play another year of college basketball, which could possibly raise and improve my stock.'”

Once Aimaq put his name in the transfer portal on March 18, things got a little out of hand. The 6-10 center could barely get sleep as his phone was filled with text notifications or missed calls.

“For me personally, I’m a level-headed guy,” Aimaq said. “I don’t really let too many things bring me up or down. Obviously, it was a little overwhelming in the first 3-4 days. I literally couldn’t go to sleep at night because of my phone blowing up. Handling the situation, it’s always been the same. Whether I’m going through the (NBA) process, or dealing with this, I think if I do come back, it’s about trying to find the best fit, situation possible to do what I need to do to achieve my ultimate goal. That’s what it really comes back down to.”

And what of the expanded media coverage? Playing in the Western Athletic Conference doesn’t bring a ton of media coverage from national outlets. That is, unless you put up 37 points in an NCAA Tournament game. Or you live in the Phoenix area. Even after Utah Valley beat 12th-ranked BYU on December 1, most media outlets weren’t paying attention. Or when Utah Valley beat Washington in Seattle in late December. Aimaq had a 15-point, 15-rebound double double and the announcers considered it a quiet night.

“Now, it’s like the biggest media outlets are talking,” Aimaq said. “At the Elite 8, people are giving me shout outs. People that have never watched a game of mine this year are now trying to give evaluations and what they think of me as a player. It just comes back to the fact that I have to stay level-headed. Not worry because Duke or Kentucky is trying to get me to commit to their school. It’s more, I’m going to go through the pre-draft process and figure it out from there.”

Media outlets aren’t the only ones that have jumped on the Aimaq bandwagon. Fans have also been blowing up Aimaq on social media. And, even as level-headed as he is, Aimaq is human and so the attention is something he, along with anyone else, loves.

“As a player, you love the attention,” Aimaq said. “There’s not one person that doesn’t love the attention. With that, it’s been kind of crazy. My social has been blowing up. I have hundreds and hundreds of DM’s on my Instagram and Twitter of fans trying to give me their thoughts on why I should come to their school. It’s interesting to see how different it is with some of these schools compared to a mid-major level.”

Fardaws Aimaq went on to say that it’s kind of funny to see fan bases on social media argue over which school is better.

“Man, I’ve enjoyed it.”

For Mark Madsen and Utah Valley fans, the big question is if they can get Big Maple to return to Orem. And Aimaq, to his credit, has left that possibility open with the help of his roommate.

“Right now, I’m fully locked in on the pre-draft,” Aimaq said.  “I’ve told schools that. And people know that. Our coaches over here at Utah Valley know that. But, Trey (Woodbury) is one of my best friends. I’ve grinded the last three years with him here. We went through our whole college experience basically together. We’ve lived together the last three years. We literally do everything together.”

Fardaws Aimaq went on about the possibility of returning to Orem. And what it felt like missing Woodbury throughout the 2021-22 season due to injury.

“This relationship definitely plays a role in my decision. Just thinking about what could have been is really disheartening. I think about it sometimes, ‘man, we could have really made some noise.’ The coaches gotta do what they gotta do in terms of recruiting. And depending on what happens with that and still having these conversations with Trey, that possibility is definitely realistic if the puzzle pieces come together.”

Fardaws Aimaq
Fardaws Aimaq is exploring all options and loving every minute of it. Courtesy UVU Athletics.

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