‘We see a breakthrough’: Cal’s Fardaws Aimaq and the artwork of staying optimistic


NOTHING ABOUT THIS season has been straightforward for Fardaws “Daws” Aimaq.

The chief of a California Golden Bears staff that’s rebuilding below first-year coach Mark Madsen has endured adversity on the courtroom in a troublesome season.

For one, he is taking part in for a staff that has reached the NCAA match simply as soon as (2016) up to now 11 years. The Bears entered the week with a 8-12 document. They started the season shedding 10 of their first 14 video games, with half of these losses that includes opponents with sub-100 rankings on KenPom, together with Pacific (345th). Regardless of this, the staff continues to concentrate on the silver lining: Six of these losses completed with margins of three factors or fewer, or resulted in time beyond regulation. Presently, Cal, which is ranked second within the Pac-12 in turnover proportion, has gained 4 of its previous six video games.

By the troublesome occasions, Aimaq and his teammates have remained optimistic, strengthened by the hurdles the 12 months has offered so far.

“What we have been doing, it may work,” he instructed ESPN concerning the Bears’ season. “There’s going to be a breakthrough. What we have been saying each single day is ‘alternative,’ and every recreation is a brand new alternative.”

Whereas that is not straightforward for any participant to digest, the 6-foot-11 ahead — who’s at present sixth within the nation in rebounding (10.7 rebounds per recreation) and third in double-doubles (12) — has additionally skilled one other problem, as a Muslim man and the son of an Afghan refugee. Aimaq, who was born in Vancouver, stated he typically receives reward from members of the Afghan and Muslim communities who help him. He additionally revealed that at any time when he opens his messages on social media, he typically sees lots of hate, too. Typically, it is due to his efficiency on the courtroom. Typically, it is a response from Texas Tech followers nonetheless angered by his resolution to switch to Cal after final season. And typically, he stated, it is as a result of he is Muslim.

“It is a slippery slope,” he stated. “I do not actually undergo lots of my messages except it is a day once I’m bored and simply wanting by means of stuff. It’s important to attempt to do your half by staying targeted on no matter is in entrance of you, and that is simply taking part in basketball.”

However when a fan crosses a line, it is a problem for any athlete to disregard.

Throughout a November match in San Juan Capistrano, California, Aimaq stated a person known as him a “terrorist” a number of occasions as he walked towards his staff’s bus after speaking to members of the family within the stands following a 75-72 loss to UTEP. A viral, postgame video confirmed Aimaq within the stands as he confronted the particular person.

“You wish to discuss? You wish to discuss? I will slap the s— out you,” he stated.

“You already know, the primary time I heard it, I simply stored strolling,” Aimaq stated. “We might simply misplaced, and there was lots of frustration. I used to be simply fascinated by the sport, and I did not actually course of it till I heard it a pair extra occasions. It was an enormous group and from there, it led to the incident that occurred with the video being taken of that complete confrontation. I do not keep in mind, phrase for phrase, what I stated. I simply keep in mind being annoyed.”

Madsen condemned the alternate and promised inside self-discipline for Aimaq. However he additionally instructed Aimaq, “I am sorry you needed to expertise that.” His teammates consoled him, too.

“After I noticed [the video], he and I instantly spoke and he instructed me straight away what had occurred,” Madsen stated. “Realizing the context, clearly, it helped me perceive the scenario higher.”

Madsen has recognized Aimaq for years, starting when he recruited the ahead to play at Utah Valley after Aimaq’s single season at Mercer. He knew Aimaq as a form younger man who performed with Madsen’s youngsters after video games. So seeing Aimaq’s demeanor on the video was an indication to the coach that one thing critical had occurred.

“My principal and my first message was that feedback like that ought to by no means be made by a fan or anybody to a different human being ever,” Madsen instructed ESPN. “However then as a coach, additionally simply coming from the NBA, I’ve seen gamers impacted in a really detrimental means when issues spiral uncontrolled within the stands. In order that was my principal message to [Aimaq]. ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter what occurs, let’s keep out of the stands.'”

Aimaq’s father, Faramaz, instructed ESPN he was surprised when his son known as and instructed him concerning the incident. Faramaz had fled Afghanistan as a youngster within the Seventies after his father had died within the Afghan Civil Conflict.

“I misplaced my father, numerous household. I used to be 17, 18 years previous,” he stated. “It was actually exhausting for me as a result of it is struggle. It was a bombing.”

He subsequently landed in Canada and constructed a brand new life for himself. He stated his son’s expertise damage him each as a result of he fought so exhausting for his household’s future but in addition as a result of Fardaws has at all times been a optimistic and peaceable particular person.

“I instructed him, ‘Simply ignore them,'” Faramaz instructed ESPN. “‘You go play exhausting.’ I give him lots of credit score as a result of on a regular basis [last season at Texas Tech], they used actually dangerous phrases about my son. This isn’t truthful. [A fan called my son] a terrorist. I’ve to be sincere: On that day I used to be crying. It is exhausting typically, you already know?”

Fardaws trusted the self-discipline he has developed through the years to navigate the scenario. He’s the primary participant on the courtroom earlier than apply every day, and the final particular person to go away the ground. His childhood martial arts coaching taught him the worth of controlling his feelings, adhering to diligence and counting on persistence.

Whereas he had each proper to spend the remainder of the season angered by what occurred in November, he has chosen to maneuver ahead and never enable that second to outline his season.

“Clearly, I’ve forgiven the child,” Aimaq stated.

Madsen, who spent 9 years within the NBA, together with being coached by Phil Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers, stated Aimaq has grown as a frontrunner, and it is exhibiting outcomes. Cal’s latest wins embrace an 81-75 time beyond regulation win over Washington State through which Aimaq completed with 18 factors, 14 rebounds and a pair of steals.

“One of many issues that makes him nice is his ardour for all times,” Madsen stated. “He is a terrific human being. He is a multiple-time staff captain. He has nice management, and he’s such a tough employee.”

Aimaq’s school basketball profession has been a journey. He’s taking part in for his fourth faculty. In any respect of his earlier stops, he transferred after his head coaches had both taken one other job (Madsen) or been fired (former Texas Tech coach Mark Adams, former Mercer coach Bob Hoffman). However now, he believes he can finish his collegiate profession on a excessive word and pursue his goals of constructing historical past as the primary participant of Afghan descent to play within the NBA. He is not at present listed on any respected NBA mock drafts, so his odds are slim. However he has by no means backed down from a problem.

On Friday, after the staff’s 73-71 win over Stanford, Madsen pointed to Aimaq (13 factors, 12 rebounds) within the locker room and praised him for his effort.

“After we could not get a bucket, we went to you, huge fella, and also you produced each time,” Madsen stated.

Aimaq’s teammates all clapped and cheered.

“When it is all stated and achieved, when you have achieved every thing potential in your energy and it would not work out, then that is one factor,” Aimaq stated. “You already know, for us, the explanation that we have been so optimistic is that we see a breakthrough coming.”

From Vancouver, Canada, in the meantime, his father admires his son’s resilience as he endured the trials this season has offered and continues to thrive.

“I’m pleased with him,” Faramaz stated. “He is my hero.”





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