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Newly hired referees get their start at Summer League

Updated July 14, 2022 - 5:39 pm

Everyone on the court during the 2022 NBA Summer League is trying to establish themselves as an NBA talent.

From players hoping to get signed onto NBA rosters to coaches trying to climb the ladder to become a head coach. The same goes for the referees working the games.

This year the NBA has assigned 13 newly hired referees. They come from the G League’s referee training process. For all 13, it’s a huge step toward accomplishing the goal of getting to the NBA.

“It was the infancy of a dream beginning to manifest,” said new hire Kaz Beverley. “Getting hired by the NBA in any capacity is the pinnacle of success and validity.”

The league’s goal is to help get the referees ready for the upcoming season by working Summer League games. They go through a thorough postgame debrief of how they did in the prior game and training sessions throughout the 11-day event to help prepare them for what is expected by the league.

“You have to have good habits in place to get you through it because when your mind goes blank, your body is responding to whatever your training was,” said Rachael Rayford, another newly hired referee.

Rayford, 30, and Beverley, 36, are getting their first taste of NBA basketball after each worked the last several seasons refereeing Division I women’s basketball.

Beverley began refereeing eight years ago on the recommendation from his former high school baseball coach. After one high school game, Beverley remembered an encounter in the locker room where someone told him he would be a good referee.

He was then introduced to NBA referee scout Al Bautista who helped him along in the process that led him to getting hired by the G League.

Rayford went through a similar process to become a G League referee after she graduated from Purdue. But she struggled at first, admitting she did not take that initial tryout as seriously as she should have and was cut.

After taking time to figure out if refereeing was something she wanted to continue, Rayford said she told herself this was what she wanted to do , and she turned her focus on being a good college referee.

A scout that worked with Rayford noticed she had improved, and after some conversations sent Rayford to go through the process again last year that led her to being hired this time around.

Both new hires admitted it can be overwhelming at times, given the new environment and the wealth of information they have to learn. But the training sessions and learning from long-time NBA referees have helped make for a smooth transition.

“We’re still looking to see how we can get better,” Beverley said. “Not only from our mistakes but from the things we are doing right.”

One of the biggest lessons Rayford has learned in the last year is no referee has a perfect game and cannot be afraid to make a mistake.

“If you’re not making mistakes out here, you’re playing it way too safe and you’re not increasing your threshold for learning,” Rayford said.

Beverley said some new hires could work 20 to 30 games during their first G League season. He’s not sure how many he will work, but he will have to manage his other job as a special education teacher.

After Summer League there will be some time off from basketball before all NBA referees get back together for preseason training. Neither Beverley nor Rayford could say when they could reach the NBA, but each said if they perform at a high level, their work will not go unnoticed.

“If you can prove yourself to be likable, trustworthy and that you can do the work, I’m a strong believer that opportunity will come my way,” Beverley said.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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