How the nba is using summer league — and virtual reality — to train refs.

By Ben Dowsett

Jul. 21, 2022, at 10:00 AM

nba summer league referee assignments


Partway through a postgame video review within the bowels of the arena, referees Cheryl Flores and Robert Hussey hang their heads in dismay and disbelief over a missed call.

Today’s crew is overseen by 10th-year veteran NBA referee Ben Taylor, who has just pointed out the officiating error on a monitor in the locker room. Both of his charges are distraught upon realizing their mistake. Was this the NBA Finals? Was it an egregious missed call, the sort that may have swung the outcome of a close game?

Not quite. The call in question took place at the NBA’s summer league in Las Vegas, and the rule at issue is so obscure, the average NBA fan likely isn’t aware of it: When the crew stopped play for a bleeding player 1 in the first half, they left the shot clock at its previous position of 12 seconds; it should have been reset to 14 by rule.

So why are Flores and Hussey so upset over a seemingly minute blunder in an inconsequential summer contest?

Pride is at play, certainly. There’s more to it, though.

Both officials are near the end of the NBA’s developmental pipeline, where competition is fierce for coveted full-time roles in the world’s biggest league. As the NBA looks to round out its staff ahead of the 2022-23 season, each is among the prime candidates to fill open slots. Only about 70 such jobs are available at any one time; Flores and Hussey have risen to the top of a program that once included thousands of people. Even in summer league, every call makes a difference, with high-ranking league staffers parsing officials’ every move.

This is just one window into the NBA’s officiating program in Las Vegas, which has come to serve as a central hub for referee training and development in recent years. For prospective officials, summer league is a chance to learn on the court and in detailed review sessions. For the league, it’s a chance to grade the next generation of refs who will someday be making these kinds of calls in the NBA Finals. The setup for this process has become more advanced and detailed with each passing summer — this year, it even features new virtual reality technology poised to revolutionize the entire world of officiating. And all of this is happening around games that NBA fans might not even be following. 

Taylor serves the role of trainer for summer league refs — part of a long-running mentorship program the league organizes each year. 2 He fondly remembers his own time as a young ref at summer league, where he once called Kevin Durant’s first-ever NBA action in Vegas in 2007. Taylor says the hands-on training he received from officiating legends like Joey Crawford and Derrick Stafford served as the foundation for a successful career, and he uses it as a model for the tutelage he offers younger officials today.

But he also remembers how different the setup was back then.

“I got hired into the D-League at 21 [years old],” Taylor told me. “Ben Taylor today, at 21, would barely be in the introductory levels of this [program].”

The league’s approach to summer programs has evolved immensely in a short time. When Taylor was learning, summer league invites were typically extended as a tryout of sorts; evaluators often had never seen the refs they invited, outside of a handful of games at a camp they happened to be attending. The refs who impressed NBA staffers during summer play would regularly get hired directly into what was known then as the D-League , immediately placing them on a track toward a full-time NBA gig.

Today’s officiating program is far more layered and detailed. Securing an invite to summer league means rising through multiple tiers of the league’s developmental hierarchy. For instance, only once an official is on the G League’s staff can that official even be considered for a summer invite, and a G League spot is itself exclusive. (Last year, the league hired only 13 new G League officials.)

Only 13 of over 3,000 refs make it to the cusp of the NBA

Stages of the 2022 NBA referee recruiting process, where only a portion of candidates from each level advance to the next

This formal selection process means the summer league is serious business for aspiring refs. 

“It’s a huge honor,” Flores said. “In our mind, these games are as [important as] an NBA game, because that’s what we strive to get towards.”

And working games is just one part of the program for the officials who make it to Vegas. They also attend daily morning meetings run by Monty McCutchen, Mark Wunderlich and other members of the NBA’s officiating department.

Imagine a college lecture setting, but for refs: They review plays and concepts, discuss rule changes and more. At one such meeting this summer, McCutchen spent the better part of an hour breaking down the new transition take foul rule implemented by the NBA’s board of governors — what will qualify, what won’t and how the league anticipates players trying to exploit the new rules.

In other words, it’s a chance to be fully immersed in the craft of calling games.

The stakes are particularly high for Flores, Hussey and a handful of others at the top of the pipeline, as they are being considered for promotion to full-time NBA roles.

Both are part of the NBA’s group of “non-staff” officials — a small collection of refs who, in recent years, have alternated between the NBA and the G League (and the WNBA, in some cases). They’ve worked select regular-season NBA games; the collective-bargaining agreement allows 50 total assignments for all non-staff officials each season, as a way of allowing up-and-coming refs to test their chops at NBA game speed. 3 Non-staff officials have also continued their work in the G League during this time, primarily as crew chiefs.

When openings come available on the full-time NBA staff each offseason, these non-staff officials are the first ones considered. Maybe just one will be hired; maybe three or four will get the nod; some years, none will make the cut.

“It’s about the talent sets of people who are ready or not ready,” McCutchen said of this process. “You may have a need for four spots, but only have two [referees] that are really ready. So that combination and balance of [who] is ready and what is needed always informs that decision every year.”

Many variables factor into who gets the call, including referees’ analytical profiles derived from the league’s tracking and grading programs . In a way, though, summer league — and preseason play a few months later — is a final audition for refs like Flores and Hussey.

“How we referee here is how we would referee in an NBA game,” Flores said. “Summer league, for us, is like our NBA.”

While officials and their trainers focus on the details of the job at the Thomas & Mack Center, others within the NBA are busy with another project elsewhere on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus, one that’s drawing excited whispers throughout the league’s officiating department: an immersive form of referee training based on virtual reality technology.

They’re working with Rezzil, a U.K.-based company focused on using tech to aid in cognitive development in sports. 4 As part of the league’s new Launchpad technology program , Rezzil spent much of the past year working with the NBA to develop a virtual reality platform that’s poised to flip the world of referee training on its head.

Using a system that draws data from optical-tracking companies like Second Spectrum and Hawk-Eye, Rezzil creates a three-dimensional, virtual reality rendering of any part of an NBA game.

“It looks like a video game,” Andy Etches, a co-founder of Rezzil, told me. “But it’s actually the game . Every single player will be in the right position, their body parts will be accurate, the shape will be accurate.”

With nothing but a VR headset and a laptop, users of this system are immersed directly onto the virtual “court.” They can view play from any perspective — their own, sure, but also that of any other ref or player on the court (or from fixed areas such as the scoreboard or baseline).

“They have some really interesting smoothing algorithms that just make it look, basically, like NBA 2K ,” said Tom Ryan, NBA vice president of basketball strategy and guru of all things tech. “It looks and feels really close to real life.”

Users have a full host of features like pause, rewind and slow motion. And the system has the ability not only to re-create any play or sequence from a past game but also to generate new, hypothetical settings.

The NBA chose Rezzil for this project after close collaboration with many in referee operations. The possible implications on the world of referee training are almost inconceivably vast.

Currently, NBA refs train primarily through the REPS program , a back-end system that categorizes all their games and provides numerous camera angles from which they (and their trainers) can evaluate and improve their performance. But before long, with Rezzil’s help, REPS could look very different.

“REPS has nine camera angles [for a given play],” McCutchen said. “We think, eventually, this is going to be our 10th angle.

“Not only will it show you a camera angle, we’ll be able to virtually move the referee. If I’m telling them, ‘You would have seen this play better had you taken a step down,’ they’re going to be able to click on [that play in Rezzil], move themselves one step down, and see … how that play would open up for them had they made this mechanical adjustment.”

Details are still being worked out on the business side; no full-on agreement between the NBA and Rezzil yet exists. But the league has already verified many of Rezzil’s basic concepts, and sources on both sides of the table feel there’s real momentum toward a partnership.

Before long, some envision this immersive technology not just as part of the referee training program, but as its entire foundation, much like simulators are used in other fields.

“It’s not novel in other industries,” Ryan said. “If you’re an astronaut, you do flight simulations. … It’s very common to get those cognitive reps in.”

So within just a year or two, up-and-comers like Flores and Hussey could be in that same locker room inside the Thomas & Mack Center — only instead of watching plays on a monitor, they’ll put on a VR headset and jump right back onto the floor, this time virtually.

Training for referees isn’t as simple as for players, who need only a ball and a hoop to practice shooting; to truly work on their craft, NBA refs need 10 high-level players on a court together. And traditionally, it hasn’t always been easy to create more opportunities for prospective officials to get that kind of real-time experience.

But that’s changing. Whether it’s calling in-game action within the league’s developmental path or the promise of virtual reality, aspiring refs have more chances to learn the craft and show they belong at the game’s highest level. In turn, that has created real excitement about the future of referee development.

And summer league is at the center of it all. Through the combination of an improved talent pipeline, cutting-edge tech and various other available tools, the summer has become an important time for testing and training the referees of tomorrow’s NBA. So expect plenty more agonizing over shades of meaning in the rulebook and how it applies to seemingly trivial summer league outcomes — the league wouldn’t have it any other way.

CLARIFICATION (July 21, 2022, 3:32 p.m.): A previous version of this story suggested that Hawk-Eye is an NBA partner. While the league does use Hawk-Eye data internally, the company is not an official partner.

Known as “infection control” in the fancy terminology refs use.

Other full-time NBA refs, such as John Goble and Josh Tiven, share Taylor’s duties this year.

This number was expanded due to COVID-19-related needs over the last two seasons, per McCutchen, but should return to the usual 50 moving forward.

Rezzil is active in several professional soccer leagues, including major European leagues and MLS.

Ben Dowsett is a writer and videographer based in Salt Lake City. His past NBA work can be found at ESPN, GQ, The Athletic and elsewhere. @Ben_Dowsett

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Newly hired referees get their start at Summer League

NBA Summer League is not just for players to prove themselves as NBA talent, but the league’s newly hired G League referees are getting that same opportunity.

Referee Rachael Rayford officiates during the second half of an NBA Summer League basketball ga ...

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 [email protected]. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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nba summer league referee assignments

Six FIBA referees officiated games at NBA Summer League

MIES (Switzerland) - Six FIBA referees spent the first half of July in the United States officiating games in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and learning more about their craft. 

Martin Kozlovskis of Latvia, Slovenian Boris Krejic, Italian Manuel Mazzoni, Yohan Rosso of France, Grant Todey of United States and Puerto Rican Roberto Vazquez were the six FIBA referees in Las Vegas for the games from July 6 to 12. All six have officiated numerous FIBA events including World Cups, Youth World Cups and Olympic Games basketball tournaments. 

FIBA and the NBA have had FIBA referees officiating Summer League games since 2012. FIBA and NBA Referee Operations work closely behind the scenes with different methods of cooperation to improve refereeing at the top level with the NBA Referee Operations having their full staff and top referees at the Summer League to provide guidance.

nba summer league referee assignments

"This was an amazing experience for all of us. The lectures and games from the seven days we spent in Vegas were outstanding," Kozlovskis said. "At the same time, this was a place where we had to step out of our comfort zone, because of the difference between our standard rules, signals and mechanics. I believe all of the new details we got in Vegas will make us better on the court."

🔊 𝑺𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒅 𝑶𝑵 This time we put a microphone on a referee! Listen to the best mic'd up moments! #BasketballCL #RoadToBilbao — Basketball Champions League (@BasketballCL) March 16, 2022

Kozlovskis was one of four FIBA referees at the Summer League who also officiate games in the Basketball Champions League along with Krejic, Mazzoni and Rosso.

nba summer league referee assignments

"One small step for FIBA and the NBA, one giant leap for me," Krejic said.

"The NBA Referee Operations staff shared their expectations as managers of the referees in the NBA and G-League. It gave me an opportunity to see how they break down all situations; to feel their high expectations regarding the rules knowledge; and the respect for the mechanics," Rosso said. "Despite the mechanics and some rules being different, they have mostly the same philosophy about basketball. As we never stop learning in officiating, I am very thankful to FIBA to have this wonderful learning experience."

nba summer league referee assignments

Vazquez added: "The experience of working in the Summer League was great for learning. The training sessions and highlighting the points of emphasis help us see the game differently, making our work easier on the court."

Carl Jungebrand, FIBA's Head of Refereeing, emphasized the world governing body's appreciation to the NBA for giving six officials such a valuable learning experience again.

"The cooperation with NBA Referee Operations is ten years strong and it's absolutely great to work together with this highly professional team," Jungebrand said. “This edition, and next year's, serves as preparation for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, and even though some technical and protocol differences exist, to referee a single play principle is the same for all of us and a valuable experience."

nba summer league referee assignments

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NBA Summer League Referee Assignments 2023

By Salim Prajapati

Jenna Reneau (M) became the first woman to umpire a Tech men's basketball game inside Cassell in December 2021

NBA Summer League referee assignments 2023 include Kevin Scott, John Butler, Brandon Schwab, John Goble, Jenna Schroeder and others.

The current summer league, coined as NBA 2K24 Summer League , undoubtedly has an incredibly skilled roster of match officials.

Along with some new faces and young individuals, the off-season basketball tournaments also boast some veteran referees from the NBA, such as Kevin Scott, who brings their top noch officiating abilities to the game.

Besides, the 2023 Summer League edition has experienced a notable increase in the presence of female umpires. Prominent names like Dannica Mosher, Stacie Blow, Jenna Reneau, and others are making their mark in the league.

Additionally, two well-known referees from the EuroLeague, Mehdi Difallah and Gytis Vilius are also in the lineup for competition in Las Vegas.

1. Kevin Scott

Kevin Scott is among one of the experienced NBA Summer League referees 2023. Scott officiated the very first game of the Summer League on July 3.

Kevin Scott during Round 2, Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs in June 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta

He has been an umpire for 11 years in the NBA. During his decade-long career, the 45-year-old has overseen 592 regular-season games and 25 playoff games, 11 alone in the 2022-23 season.

Scott partnered with fellow officials Randy Richardson and Tom Washington for the July 3rd game between Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers at Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California.

2. John Butler

John Butler is a seasoned official with a lot of experience in the roster for Summer League Referees.

Butler joined the NBA in 2018 as a full time umpire. He was selected as a referee for two games during the California Classic.

According to  Basketball Reference , John has so far arbitrated 171 league games in five seasons. His most in a single campaign came in 2022-23, where he officiated 48 regular season games.

3. Jenna Schroeder

Among a handful of NBA summer league female referees is Jenna Schroeder. Jenna umpired in Game 5 of the California Classic on July 5, 2023.

Jenna Schroeder runs during the game between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers at Golden 1 Center in March 2021

She lined up with Mousa Dagher and another female arbiter Cheryl Flores for the Day 2 matchup of San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers.

Moreover, Schroeder has 137 NBA games in her record as an official during her four seasons in the league.

4. Gytis Vilius

Gytis Vilius is a FIBA licensed basketball official from Lithuania. Vilius has officiated three games in the Las Vegas NBA Summer League 2023.

In June 2023, the NBA extended an invitation to a Gytis to officiate in the Vegas tournament. On July 8, he commanded his first game, where the Milwaukee Bucks emerged victorious with a score of 84-75 against the Phoenix Suns.

Vilius became an international FIBA ​​referee in 2017 and has since worked in numerous FIBA ​​competitions on the world stage.

5. Jenna Reneau

Jenna Reneau has joined the growing list of NBA female referees for the 2022-23 season. Reneau became the latest woman to be part of the league's officiating team.

Jenna Reneau has previously worked in WNBA and G League

She made it into a summer league match official roster for two games. One is on July 8 between Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns at Cox Pavilion Arena.

Similarly, her second game as an official is on July 10 at Thomas & Mack Center, a contest between the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic, where she would get help from Gina Catanzariti and Shante Anderson.

6. Brandon Schwab

Brandon Schwab was in charge of refereeing the last games for both the daytime matchups during the 2023 California Classic.

On Day 1 of the tournament on July 3rd, Schwab, along with Jacob Lear and Matt Kallio, directed the game between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings. His second match was on July 5 between the Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings.

Schwab became a full-fledged NBA official in 2020, adeptly overseeing a total of 101 games spanning three seasons.

7. Dannica Mosher

The NBA official number 89 Dannica Mosher is in her third season as a league referee. Mosher managed two Salt Lake City Summer League games on July 3 and 5.

Dannica Mosher was promoted to a full time NBA officials for the 2022-23 season

The 30-year-old worked beside Andy Nagy and Jason Stiell for her first summer league match at Delta Center, Utah.

Before becoming an NBA referee, Mosher gained valuable experience by officiating in the NBA G League for five seasons and in the WNBA for four seasons.

10. Mehdi Difallah

Mehdi Difallah is an adept French FIBA ​​basketball umpire who had his first NBA experience during the off-season in 2023.

Difallah, alongside Gytis Vilius, is listed in the Las Vegas Summer League catalog. The EuroLeague referee had his first game as an official in the tournament on July 9. His other two colleagues in that game were Nate Cearley and Ryan Johnson.

Difallah began his career as a referee in 2011 in Pro A. By 2014, he advanced to become a FIBA referee, and since 2017, he has been officiating in the Euroleague.

NBA Summer League Officials 2023

Below is the complete list of the match referees for the 2023 NBA Summer League :

California Classic

Salt lake city summer league, las vegas nba 2k24 summer league, recent posts.

nba summer league referee assignments

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nba summer league referee assignments

NBA Referee Makes History With Playoffs Assignment 

Ashley Moyer-Gleich will become only the second woman in NBA history to referee a playoff game. She was one of chosen 36 referees announced last Thursday as its referee selections for the first round of the playoffs that started during the weekend.

“It’s surreal,” Moyer-Gleich said.

NBA Referee Makes History With Playoffs Assignment

Moyer-gleich’s background.

Moyer-Gleich joined Violet Palmer as the only woman picked by the NBA for a playoff assignment. Palmer worked nine playoff games between 2006 and 2012. Moyer-Gleich played Division II basketball at Millersville University in her home state of Pennsylvania. She was promoted to a full-time NBA official role in November 2018. She has officiated more than 200 season games in her six seasons. Notably she is one of three first-time playoff selections by the league this year.

“I worked four games as an alternate last year, so obviously, my goal was I wanted to be an alternate again because that’s just sustaining the growth that I’ve had in my career, And then to see my name on list of working floor officials . I mean, my mom was with me, she came with me on my last two games for a little trip, and to open that email and have her there with me and share that news.  It was really quite amazing.” Moyer-Gleich said.

The league trims the officiating roster down for each round, typically culminating with a 12-person list for the NBA Finals. Those referees receive white warm-up jackets for Finals games, something the league has made a tradition for years.

A Brief History

On October 31, 1997, the then 33-year-old Violet Palmer became the first woman to officiate an NBA game. Despite the watershed moment, there elicited little reaction from the crowd when she was announced before the tip-off of the Dallas Mavericks and Vancouver Grizzlies game.

“This is a dream come true, but it’s come about by a lot of hard work,” says Palmer. “This is a night we’ll all look back on in 25 years and say, ‘That opened the door,'” said the former NBA VP‚ Rod Thorn, who attended the historic game in Vancouver. “It’s only appropriate that we be here. I don’t know who’s more excited, Violet or me.”

Palmer had previously officiated WNBA and NBA Summer League games. Before her first NBA regular-season game, she was ready to take the helm of the challenge.

“I was the No. 3 referee in the world for women’s basketball. I had everything: The Final Four. Big TV games. All the limelight I wanted … But my personality is if you give me a challenge, I’m going to take it.” said Violet at the time.

The Full Officials List

The full list of first-round referees chosen by the NBA : Ray Acosta, Brent Barnaky, Curtis Blair, Tony Brothers, Nick Buchert, James Capers, Sean Corbin, Kevin Cutler, Marc Davis, JB DeRosa, Mitchell Ervin, Tyler Ford, Brian Forte, Scott Foster, Pat Fraher, Jacyn Goble, John Goble, David Guthrie, Bill Kennedy, Courtney Kirkland, Karl Lane, Mark Lindsay, Ed Malloy, Ashley Moyer-Gleich, Gediminas Petraitis, Kevin Scott, Aaron Smith, Ben Taylor, Dedric Taylor, Josh Tiven, Justin Van Duyne, James Williams, Sean Wright, Zach Zarba, Kogut, Orr and Moyer-Gleich.

“Congratulations to these 36 officials on the well-earned and prestigious honor of being selected to officiate in the NBA Playoffs, We appreciate the professionalism, dedication and teamwork that our officiating staff displays on a daily basis throughout the season.” NBA President of League Operations Byron Spruell said.

This article first appeared on Last Word On Sports and was syndicated with permission.

More must-reads:

  • Luka Doncic hands OKC first playoff loss with gutsy Game 2 effort
  • Knicks get even more bad injury news ahead of Game 3
  • The 'Most three-pointers made in one postseason' quiz

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