Fardaws Aimaq admits he could use scouting process as fact-finding mission and opt to return to Utah Valley for junior season and aim for 2022 NBA Draft instead.

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Fardaws Aimaq looks like B.C.’s next NBA player. The timeline remains the largest question.

The 6-foot-11 centre from Richmond, who led the NCAA Div. I ranks in rebounding (15 per game) this season as a redshirt sophomore with the Utah Valley Wolverines, declared for the 2021 NBA Draft on Wednesday.

He says 10 teams have expressed interest, and he plans to work out for as many as possible. Final details about draft procedures continue to be a work in progress due to COVID-19.

Aimaq admits that the whole exercise may still wind up as a fact-finding mission for the future. He could take the critiques he gets from the NBA clubs, go back to Utah Valley to play and use that information to help both the Wolverines and his own stock for the 2022 NBA Draft.

This year’s draft is July 29 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and players have until July 19 to withdraw.

“It’s a win-win however it turns out,” Aimaq, 22, said Thursday. “Either I get drafted or I get feedback that I can use to give me a really good shot at getting drafted the next year.”

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Aimaq has always felt like someone with a plan. A high school star with the Steveston-London Sharks, he started his NCAA career with the Mercer Bears in 2018-19. At the time he committed to the program based in Macon, Ga., Aimaq said that he had heard from more celebrated teams, including the Oregon Ducks. He picked Mercer because it gave him the best chance to play.

Mercer fired coach Bob Hoffman after Aimaq’s freshman season and Aimaq opted to transfer. Former NBA centre/power forward Mark Madsen had just signed on as coach of Utah Valley, a mid-major program based in Orem.

Aimaq worked out for Madsen. Madsen offered him a scholarship and Aimaq accepted, cancelling visits to programs like the Washington State Cougars in the process.

“He’s done everything that I’m trying to do,” Aimaq said of the 6-foot-9 Madsen, 45, who won two NBA championship rings coming off the bench with the Los Angeles Lakers as part of his nine-year NBA career.“He’s played my position and he’s played at it at the highest level. I get a chance to get on the court with him at practice and he’s showing me different things that I need to do.”

He also believes that playing under Madsen “will make NBA teams feel better” about his progress.

“I’m sure that they are looking at me and saying, ‘He’s under an NBA guy, he’s working with someone who has been through the process and can guide him,’ ” Aimaq said.

Mike Stoneburgh, who was Aimaq’s coach with Steveston-London, says that Aimaq long maintained that he wanted to play in the NCAA and then the NBA but “the last two years he’s become even more focused on the NBA.”

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Aimaq admits that the first time Madsen told him that an NBA team representative want to come see him play this year he thought that “this is more serious than I imagined.” He’s dialed it in since then, he says.

“I’m not letting this affect me. It’s not blowing my head up or making me nervous. I’m continuing with the process. I’m continuing to work at getting better,” he explained.

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Aimaq sat out last season as a transfer.

This season, he became the first NCAA Div. I player to average 15 rebounds per game since Alcorn State’s Larry Smith (15.1 rebounds per game) in 1979-80. Aimaq’s output featured a 25-rebound game in a 93-89 loss to the Dixie State Trailblazers on Feb. 13.

Jackson State’s Jayveous McKinnis (13.2) and Arkansas State’s Norchad Omier (12.3) were next in U.S. in rebounds per game this season after Aimaq.

The list of players who have led NCAA Div. I in rebounding includes Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

Aimaq also averaged 13.9 points per game and shot 48.5 per cent (114-of-235) from the field this season for Utah Valley, who were 11-11 overall and 9-4 in Western Athletic Conference play.

He made the one three-pointer that he tried. He says that he’ll work on his perimeter game in preparation for his visits with NBA teams.

Last week, Aimaq was named the recipient of the Riley Wallace Award, which is given annually to the top transfer player in NCAA Div. I. He had earlier been named WAC player of the year and defensive player of the year.

SEwen@postmedia.com

twitter:@SteveEwen

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