For basketball leagues, it is easy to focus on the players as they form the core element of professional basketball and ignore other parties such as the officials and front office personnel. This would not be the case for the Basketball Africa League as assured by the NBA Senior Director of Business (League) Operations, Morgan Cato
Morgan Cato, whose job includes enhancing communication, decorum and perception among players and officials, highlighted during her chat on The BAL Podcast that improving the state of officiating is one of the key focus of the BAL.
"We have an amazing referee operations team of people who are just dedicated to educating on officiating. We are expanding and building out a grassroots programme that’s focused on international development of young athletes and then helping them to identify that there are alternative career paths in basketball if you just don’t want to be a player"
Cato added that part of that training and education will be directed at players too, to attain a level of mutual respect between the players and the officials.
"Also a big piece of officiating and education for our young players is how you interact with referees and officials on the court. Take the time to learn the referees name, the referees learned your name too. They do their research on you, they understand your play style out of respect and to just make sure everyone has the best game as possible. And if you have concerns or questions, learn to get their attention at the right time."
"It’s all of these different nuances that I don’t think people understand about the officiating craft. I will call it a craft because it takes as much time to learn how to be a seasoned and well decorated official as you would put into becoming a basketball player on the court."
This, according to her, is part of the overall strategy to grow the game within the continent and guarantee the success of the BAL when it tips off later this year. This will be done in partnership with FIBA who already have some resources targeted at educating referees and table officials.
"Officiating is a big part of our game, and it’s a big part of how we will grow the Basketball Africa League. A lot of research and education has been dedicated to it, and it also requires a degree of partnership with FIBA, because if we didn’t have that it will be difficult to have the resources and get to the guys that will help with the training, and just continue to build from there."
The BAL is scheduled to hold in 6 different cities across the continent with the playoff and finals at the Kigali Arena, Rwanda.