Where do you begin?
This 6-11 transfer from Mercer was a bit of an unknown when he stepped on the Utah Valley campus in 2019. The stats weren’t out of this world. Aimaq averaged 5.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 14.9 minutes at Mercer in 2018-19.
And after sitting out the 2019-20 season due to transfer rules, Aimaq was still relatively unknown.
But, five games into the 2020-21 season, people knew about Fardaws Aimaq. In Utah Valley’s 93-88 loss to Wyoming in Orem, Aimaq had 27 points and 20 rebounds. It was the fourth time in five games Aimaq pulled down 15-plus rebounds. Two games after that against Weber State, Aimaq had 18 points and 20 boards.
And so it went. The redshirt sophomore from British Columbia recorded double-digit rebounds in 19 of Utah Valley’s 22 games in 2020-21. In fact, Aimaq became the first player in 40 years to average 15 or more rebounds per game.
Aimaq won WAC Player of the Year and WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2020-21 after helping lead Utah Valley to a share of the WAC regular season title.
Some would have thought there would have been a drop off in 2021-22.
Not even in the slightest. Aimaq went for 24 points and 22 rebounds in Utah Valley’s upset win over then-No. 12 BYU. And Aimaq once again dominated the boards all season long. In 29 of Utah Valley’s 32 games, Aimaq pulled down double figures. All this while being double and triple teamed on a nightly basis.
What is crazy is that despite having 21 wins, an upset over a nationally ranked opponent and a Power 6 win, Utah Valley still finished as the 7th seed for WAC Vegas. Aimaq will go down as one of the greatest players to wear the green and white.
Now, the question for Utah Valley is: how will they fill the void left by one of the most dominant big men in the nation the past two seasons?
Who Steps Up?
The obvious answer to this question is Trey Woodbury. In fact, had it not been for a knee injury suffered prior to the season opener, Woodbury might have been the best player for Utah Valley in 2021-22. At least that is what his roommate Fardaws Aimaq was telling us after his decision to transfer.
Trey Woodbury is the best guard in the west coast… I cannot wait for his return?
— Fardaws Aimaq (@FardawsAimaq) December 13, 2021
Woodbury missed all of the 2021-22 regular season. And then came on out of nowhere to play against Chicago State in the first round of the WAC Tournament. The Wolverines beat the Cougars but couldn’t hold off a pesky ACU squad in the second round.
But, according to head coach Mark Madsen, Woodbury is working diligently on his accounting degree and is one of the hardest workers in the gym he has seen. Along with that, Trey Woodbury is healthy. In his first season in Orem, Woodbury averaged 7.2 points and 4.1 rebounds. In year two, Woodbury led the Wolverines in scoring at 15.6 points while pulling down 4.0 rebounds.
During two games at the WAC Tournament, Woodbury played 20.5 minutes averaging 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds.
— The Western Athletic Conference (@WACsports) March 10, 2022
If anyone can fill this void, it is Trey Woodbury. And Mark Madsen is ecstatic to have him back for another season.
Keep an eye on Justin Harmon. The 6-4 guard had 14 points in the season opener at Boise State and then really burst on the scene against No. 12 BYU. Harmon came off the bench to score a career-high 24 points while adding seven rebounds in the 72-65 upset win at the UCCU Center.
For Harmon, it is about staying healthy. Harmon missed two months due to a hand injury following the upset win. And didn’t return until Jan. 27 at Chicago State where he went for 12 points in his hometown. Harmon will most likely be Utah Valley’s sixth man again. But, Harmon can light it up as he shoots 41 percent from the field and can finish at the rim.
Mark Madsen also brought in 7-footer Aziz Bandaogo from Akron. Long, athletic, and big. All adjectives to describe the newest transfer to the Utah Valley roster. Images of Eman Olojakpoke from the 2019-20 squad. Olojakpoke recorded 81 blocks in 2019-20 to set a new Utah Valley single-season record. It was also tops in the WAC. According to sources, Bandaogo is similar but his offensive game is a bit better.
Mark Madsen knows how to develop players. Look at Aimaq. Madsen took him under his wing and turned him into one of the best big men in college basketball.
Wolverine fans will miss Fardaws Aimaq. No denying that at all. And Utah Valley won’t get a player that averages 15-plus points and 15-plus rebounds per night for a while. But there are players who will step to combine to fill that void left by Big Maple.