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Cal Basketball

Aimaq Ready to Turn Cal Program Around

April 28, 2023

The Bears hosted a trio of players on official visits last weekend that could help reshape a Cal basketball program down in the dumps the past six seasons. The visitors included portal signees Fardaws Aimaq and Jaylen Cone along with former Texas Tech wing Jaylon Tyson, who the Bears are laser-focused on adding to their ‘23 portal class.

Through three seasons and 83 games played heading into the season, the 6’11 Aimaq added 1,056 points (12.7 per game), 918 rebounds (11.1 per game) and 99 blocks (1.2) in his career. He returned from a foot injury in January this season 

"It was super good," Aimaq said of his visit. "I came down there with my mom. My dad was supposed to come out but there was family stuff that happened so he just had to handle some stuff back at home but it was super good man. We had a great time. Obviously, with me and (Jalen) Cone and (Jaylon) Tyson there together at the same time made a visit a lot more fun.”

Tyson, a former teammate of both Devin Askew at Texas and Aimaq at Texas Tech is a high-priority target for the Bears so the possibility of bringing in the talented wing through the portal is a tantalizing one for Cal fans.

"Me and Jaylon are super close,” Aimaq said. “We have a great relationship and then me and Cone, I think we hit it off pretty good. I mean, he's a great dude. He comes from a great family. His parents were awesome. His little daughter was awesome. So it was, it was super fun." 

"Daws is a physically imposing player with a proven ability to impact both ends of the court at a high level," Cal head coach Mark Madsen said. "His work ethic in the gym and the weight room, paired with natural skill on the block and the perimeter will make him an immediate difference-maker for our program next season. I know Daws to be a tremendous young man who was raised the right way and who is incredibly hungry to succeed. I'm excited to reunite with him in Bear Territory."

Knowing that the program was coming off the worst season in its history, Aimaq relishes the opportunity to be a part of a team that brings winning basketball back to Berkeley.

"100%," Aimaq said. "I mean, all we've been talking about is an Elite Eight, Final Four run and with the team that we've put together and are putting together, this is going to be the first time where I'll be fully healthy and with myself and Jay if he comes are both Player of the Year type caliber players in that conference. And there's a couple other guys off the radar that if we get, bro it's gonna be a scary turnaround.  And then I know we're in the mix right now for a couple big wings hopefully maybe find another big or maybe four that can shoot it well, so we're in the mix for some dudes right now."

Aimaq and his new teammates are taking an active role in the recruiting process to do all they can to help build a winner at Cal.

"The coaches call me every day because everyone wants to play with the bigs and especially when you have a coach like Mark Madson, he's super NBA-oriented. His offense is super easy flowing. He really lets guys run down the floor. I think that's that has a big appeal to a lot of guys. There's obviously structure but you can do a lot of things out of the stuff that he runs and I like to talk with some guys that we've been recruiting like, that's been a big appeal. So I think, Mark and everyone else on staff is doing a really good job right now in recruiting."

The ability to reunite with his former head coach was a big selling point for the center from Vancouver as well.

"I'm not gonna lie, it was the sole reason why I chose to come to Cal now," Aimaq said. "I had a visit set up with Missouri and then the week after I was gonna go to Texas and then coach had gotten the job. And then I called one of my guys and said I think we're gonna have to cancel this visit and this visit. And then as soon as Mark got the job, he called me right away. He called me that night. And then from there, I knew, I was like, man, this is all I could ask for, playing for someone who knows exactly how to use me, knows how to recruit, knows how to do everything to win at the power five level.

"What he did at Utah Valley with very limited resources, there are multiple examples of guys that he's brought in throughout the years. Guys like myself, I came in as someone super under-recruited. Just with player development like from where he took me from my first year to my last year at Utah Valley just shows the kind of developmental guy. He did that with Aziz (Bendoago) last year coming from Acron. Guys like Trey Woodbury, Justin Harmon, who's now at Illinois, Le'Tre Darthard, who just committed to Oklahoma. So he knows how to produce power five guys that maybe essentially in the beginning, they weren't that and he develops them into that.”

A skilled eye for talent combined with proven players Madsen has already added to the portal are part of a quick turnaround strategy to help get the Bears’ ship turned around quickly.

“He does have an eye for talent. He really does,” Aimaq said. “It's crazy because he is one of the smartest people I've ever truly met. I'm not even talking just about basketball and sports but like stuff outside of basketball, you can't outsmart him. He's a Stanford graduate for a reason.

“Coming out of high school, he could have almost gone anywhere and he chose Stanford for a reason. And obviously, we're down for him, but it's just funny how things worked out like the dude who went to one of our biggest rival schools is down the street to be the rival school’s head coach. That's kind of funny how that works out.”

Aimaq is set to be the centerpiece of Madsen’s new scheme - something that definitely attracted Cal’s new center.

“Just talking to Coach basically, his vision is that we're obviously going to play through me and I think his plan is just to put a bunch of shooters around me and guys who can play off the ball and on the ball. And we're just gonna be a lethal team in terms of like shooting one through four, really just shoot the crap out the ball is just going to be the plan. Just hit the open three. I think the way that he's kind of planning on building this team is super fast-paced play, up and down. And then obviously, play through the post, like go through me and basically demand double teams and then we're gonna have a ton of shooters out there and spread them out. If we get him, Jaylon Tyson shot 40 from three. Jalen Cone shot 43 from three and some of the other guys we might get shoot well from three. So we’re gonna have some guys who are gonna be knockdown shooters and I think a lot of people are going to be surprised. Like within the first I want to say four or five games when they see what we can do. We're gonna try and make a statement and I think that the scheduling and stuff is gonna play a big part of that. Obviously, you start off with some easier wins on the schedule, and then you build on it and go to town and make some noise, hopefully.”

The natural chemistry beyond the construction of the new roster with the committed players who have already played together, those being recruited and a staff that has worked with many of the players already is paying dividends so far.

“You know, I played under Coach Madsen and Coach Matt (Scherbansky) and guys we’re recruiting, like Tyson and Woodbury,” Aimaq noted. “Tyson played with Devin Askew. it's funny how it works, like the whole full circle thing with some guys on staff that I was either with at Tech or I was with at Utah Valley now all over here. The new guys that he's bringing in. I think we're taking a big step toward the right direction for Cal basketball.”

Assistant coach Matt Scherbanske could be a big part of the new roster construction as well with his recruiting ability and connections to Aimaq and offeree Tyson.

“Our relationship is super close,” Aimaq said. “He was my head recruiter at Texas Tech. He's the guy that brought me over. He was the guy that brought Jalen Tyson over to Tech as well. Once he got hired by Mark Madson, that was also another thing that played a big role in it where I was like, man, like this is literally the way that this is working out. like it's it's almost so hard to turn down. Like I can't turn down this opportunity. And the rest of staff are high-level guys that he's brought in.

“One thing that’s clear when you meet Coach is he’s making a statement like we're not here to mess around like, he told me like he's like, we're not he's like, we're not playing to hope to make the tournament or this or that. He said we're playing to make a run in the tournament. When he talks, he has this demeanor where it's like when he says something, he truly, truly means it. And it's crazy because some coaches just say stuff and it's like, they don't truly mean it. Like when he says that he truly means it.

“I have the assistants calling me every single day, telling me they've been working, man. They've been working the phones, they've been working every resource possible, whether it's fixing the nutrition station or fixing this or that or raising the budget on whatever they're trying to do to put us in the best possible position to make a run. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to get through the first part of the season and conference play and all that as well.”

Part of the rebuilding plan will center around Aimaq continuing to rehab his injured foot from last season where he gamely played through the injury late in the season to try and help his team.

“I think I'm about a month out is what I'm hearing from doctors from being fully healthy, like fully clear to do everything, so that's super, super exciting,” Aimaq said. “it's been a long, long road. It's been a six to eight month deal. But the position I was in last year was a little tough just because, when you're coming in as a preseason top 20 team, and the team was kind of built around me and then once I got hurt, before the season started, it kind of put our team in a little bit of disarray. And once conference, play started, we were 0-10 at one point and I kind of felt pressure to play.

“We had injuries that happened last year and we were the youngest team in the Big 12. We had like eight freshmen, and Jalen, in my eyes,  was a freshman. It was his first real year of playing last year. So it was a tricky situation with the stuff that happened but hopefully we can get Tech on the schedule, maybe play them in the first second or second round of the tournament or something like that.”

Aimaq’s visit to Cal last weekend further solidified that he’d made the right decision as his comfort level was strong right away.

“I have a lot of family out in the bay in Fremont, Sacramento and the general San Francisco area,” Aimaq noted. “The support from that community has been a real, like they've just been blowing me up a ton and even random people message me and say, “Try this this restaurant when you get out here. Got you with this and that and that's just cool to see the support in the community and I'm super excited to just turn things around.

“And I'm from Vancouver, so it's super similar to where I'm from. It just felt like home. The campus was packed and just the energy's different. And it's not Texas. It's that nice Cali weather. Obviously I'm super, super excited to get down there. I think I'm down there within the next two to three weeks. We don't start till like mid-June or something like that. But ‘llI get down a little bit early, finish up my rehab and hopefully I'm ready to go by the time official practices start.”

“It's crazy because from everyone that I've talked to that from back in the day, they're just waiting for Cal basketball to be good again, you know? And it's like, I feel like we're gonna see throughout the year with winning and stuff, we're gonna slowly start to fill out that arena again, slowly start to game by game just try to bring back the culture that Cal basketball had in the past and try and restore that legacy that they once had once when those legends played. But I'm hoping by the end of the season or in conference play, we have some only packed-out games, playing in Haas.”

For win-starved Cal basketball fans, that day can’t come soon enough.


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Discussion from...

Aimaq Ready to Turn Cal Program Around

10,898 Views | 40 Replies | Last: 2 mo ago by HoopDreams
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Would love to see him at Haas!
Basketball Bear
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stu said:

I like Woodbury but Bandaogo is an otherworldly talent. I think if we sign Bandaogo the other pieces will be less critical.
Stu, I'm with you on this. If we can land him Hass will be rocking on game day. With that said everything I am reading makes it sound like it will probably be a wing coming in.
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Having too many starting-talent level big men is the problem we WANT to have.
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Berkeley has an Afghan burrito:
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The reason I'm optimistic for the season is Aimaq

We've always have had a tough time recruiting top big men

Yes, we've had some.... Rabb, Shareef, Powe, etc. Those team's we're all good

But mostly we've had to compete with a disadvantage in the post

With Aimaq I think we will have the better player in the post most games
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