Fardaws Aimaq - Best Rebounder You Have Likely Never Seen
Fardaws Aimaq might be the best rebounder in college basketball that the casual basketball fan has never heard of. Utah Valley’s Aimaq led the nation in rebounding last season at 15.0 per game. This year, he is second in the nation to Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, and is pulling down 13.8 rebounds per game.
Aimaq was considering leaving for the NBA after last season but the feedback from scouts was that he needed to get his body in better shape and he also needed to try to develop an outside shot. He definitely has his body in better shape as he has lost 25 pounds since getting to Utah Valley and reduced his body fat from 18 to eight percent by going on a plant-based diet.
He’s even starting to shoot some three-pointers. In his previous two seasons of play, Aimaq did not take a single three-pointer. This year he’s shooting 1.6 three-pointers per game and connecting at slightly better than 40 percent. Now, Aimaq is starting to check the boxes for a potential NBA career. He is 23 years old—one factor running against him—and he still needs to refine his outside game and improve his mobility. But he has a chance—especially when looking at the strides he’s made the past few years.
Aimaq has improved his game impressively since starting his college career. He was skilled, but not in the best shape coming out of Maine’s Bridgton Academy. As a result, he didn’t receive many scholarship offers. He signed at Mercer and averaged 5.0 points and 5.3 rebounds over 14.9 minutes per game in his freshman season. He shot 42 percent from the foul line and did not attempt a single three-pointer.
Aimaq then transferred to Utah Valley after his coach at Mercer got fired and redshirted the 2019-20 season. Last year, he returned to the court in better shape, was able to run the court better and led the nation in rebounding. His 15.0 rebounding average was the best single-season mark in college basketball since the 1979-80 season. He again did not take any three-pointers but he improved his free throw shooting to 61.8 percent and averaged 13.9 points per game.
This year his offensive game has shown a marked improvement. Being in better shape has been very important as was the work he did on his outside shot. His free throw shooting has shown significant improvement again as he’s shot at over 72 percent from the line. That, along with his three-point shooting, has helped improve his offensive game overall and he has averaged 18.8 points this season.
Aimaq has scored over 20 points 13 times this year, with a season-high of 34 points early in the season against Pepperdine. But rebounding will still be Aimaq’s ticket to the NBA—if that ticket is ever punched. He has pulled down double-figure rebounding totals in all but five games and has gotten over 20 rebounds three times, including a season-high 22 against BYU on December 1st. Aimaq does a nice job of passing the ball out of the block, as well, and is a decent shot-blocker, registering 1.3 per game.
According to Mark Madsen, head coach at Utah Valley, “Aimaq is the most skilled, well-rounded big man in the country.” Although his rebounding numbers are down some from last season, teams know who he is and are trying to do their best to keep him off the boards. If Aimaq’s improvement continues, both physically as well as on the court, the NBA is a realistic possibility for him.”
Viewing Aimaq in person at the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas recently, it’s really impressive how much his body has improved, as well as his offensive skills. In a win against Chicago St. on March 8th, Aimaq made two nice three-pointers, scored in the post and on shorter shots inside. He also ran the court well and scored in transition. If he can improve his lift, he has a shot at the NBA. If not, he can play at a high level in Europe.
Aimaq’s father is from Afghanistan and relocated to British Columbia after the outbreak of the Soviet-Afghan War. Fardaws was born in Vancouver. He could end up being the first player of Afghan descent to play in the NBA. Basketball is truly an international game.
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