OREM — What Fardaws Aimaq accomplished around the rim was special throughout the 2020-21 season, and not just in the scope of the Utah Valley men's basketball program.
The 6-foot-11, 245-pound native of Vancouver, British Colombia was a force on the glass, averaging a nation's best 15.2 rebounds per game — the first player nationally to average more than 15 rebounds per game since 1980, to go along with his 14-point set.
Western Athletic Coaches recognized that innate ability Tuesday, naming Aimaq conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. He's the first WAC Player of the Year from UVU since Jake Toolson won the same award in 2019.
But Aimaq was nominated for very different reasons. Toolson was a volume scorer, able to match buckets with anyone in the league. While Aimaq's 14.5 points per game shouldn't be shortchanged, he recognized his role of rebounding, and quickly excelled in it.
"A lot of it doesn't come down to how high you can jump or athleticism," Aimaq told KSL.com during his rise about the career rebounds ladder at UVU, "but at the end of the day, it's how physical you play and how hard you can hit that person before they can jump."
A mixed martial artist since he was 6 years old, that mentality serves Aimaq's singular focus on the glass.
"I think it's just a totally different style of the way you've got to think. You're by yourself out there, so you've got to watch your own back.
"It teaches you a lot. You learn discipline, how to be patient, meditation; it's a lot more mental than a lot of people think."
Aimaq, who is also the first WAC Defensive Player of the Year in school history, was also named to the all-conference first team, all-defensive team and all-newcomer team Tuesday. Teammate J.J. Overton was named second-team all-WAC, while Evan Cole and Trey Woodbury took honorable mention designations.
Overton led the Wolverines in scoring en route to a WAC co-championship and No. 2 seed in the conference tournament this week in Las Vegas. The senior from San Diego averaged 15.9 points per game, the third-best mark in the conference, and ranks top-10 in the WAC in points, points per game, blocks, steals and field-goal percentage.
Cole, a graduate transfer from Georgia Tech, paced the Wolverines on both ends of the floor with 11.6 points and 6.3 rebounds. He ranks sixth in the league in offensive rebounding (2.0) and eighth in defensive rebounding (4.3).
Woodbury, who transferred from UNLV, was arguably the Wolverines' most consistent player, averaging 14.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. The junior ranks sixth in the WAC in scoring, fourth in assists, fifth with an 80.8 free-throw percentage and seventh with a 1.4 assist-to-turnover ration.
The league also recognized former UT Rio Grande Valley coach Lew Hill as Don Haskins Coach of the Year. Hill died suddenly in his sleep just weeks into WAC play of unknown causes, though the fast-rising college basketball coach had a history of both COVID-19 and amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis.
Utah Valley will open the WAC Tournament against the winner of New Mexico State and UT Rio Grande Valley in Friday's semifinals. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. MT on ESPN+ and ESPN 960 AM.
WAC Postseason Honors
Player of the Year: Fardaws Aimaq, Utah Valley
Newcomer of the Year: Asbjørn Midtgaard, Grand Canyon
Defensive Player of the Year: Fardaws Aimaq, Utah Valley
Freshman of the Year: Freddy Hicks, Tarleton
Don Haskins Coach of the Year: Lew Hill, UT Rio Grande Valley