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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Newcastle basketball referee to hit the court at Tokyo Olympics

He has refereed more than 300 National Basketball League (NBL) games, a string of World Cups, University Games and the 2016 Rio Olympics, but when Scott Beker takes his place on the basketball court at the Tokyo Olympics this July, he’ll be fulfilling a life’s work.

The 46-year-old, who has refereed more than a dozen international games, says refereeing is a role that keeps him connected to a game he loves.

“I’m still a basketball fan,” he said.

“I still love the game.”

Beker’s time in the sport began when he played as a junior for Port Hunter.

The sport was in his blood, his older brother having played before him.  

Hoping to avoid the walk home to New Lambton after a game one afternoon, Beker, as an innovative 16-year-old, refereed a game of Aussie Hoops so he could afford the bus ride home. 

“I lived 500m away from the stadium and I didn’t want to walk home. I needed the bus fare so I refereed a game. I ended up walking home and getting McDonalds on the way home too.

“It [refereeing] was a way of staying connected to the game at the top level but also the ability to see the world. There aren’t too many jobs you get paid to travel like this.”

Fast forward thirty years and Beker maintains the same preparation before he donns his referee uniform at a top level game.

“For me it’s all about the routine,” he said.

“If the routine’s not right then I don’t feel right. 

“My routine is to leave at a certain time, to be there at a certain time.

“I’m superstitious as to how I pack my bag. It has to be packed in a particular order. It’s all about the flow, the flow has to be right.”

Choice of music is also essential, Beker says.

“Before a game I listen to metal, anything hard and fast.

“If I’ve got the hire car and we’re heading to a game it’s my music, there’s no discussions. 

“It could be anything metal, punk, drum and base, anything that goes fast. It actually calms me down.” 

His favourites are Whiplash by Metallica and anything by Fear Factory.

As a referee Beker says there is a list of things he focuses on and other imperfections he lets slide.

“As a referee we’re looking for any infraction that gives one side an advantage over the other.

“If no teams are disadvantaged we continue to play.

“We use a lot of discretion. To be a top ref it’s less about the rules and more about an understanding about what the players are trying to achieve. 

“More importantly it’s about being a good communicator.”

High expectations mean high stakes, Beker says.

“At the professional level it’s everyone’s job, people are playing for their livelihood so they want people out there that can communicate in tough situations, to understand a player’s frustrations and not overreact,” he said.

A high level of stress in the role brings confrontational times as well, he admits.

“We have issues from time to time, in any work situation you have issues from time to time,” he said.

“And it’s something people are passionate about. 

“I’ve been in the league now 21 years and you get to know the players and coaches personalities, and they get to know yours. That makes for a better experience for everyone.”

“You soon learn to read when steam is about to come from someone’s ears and how to diffuse that situation.”

After a calf injury hampered his season in the lead up to the Rio Olympic Games, Beker says COVID-19 couldn’t have come at a better time.

“COVID was a good thing for me, it gave my body time to reset.”

Thankfully he was physically ready by jump ball.

“I refereed the Dream Team at the last Olympics and that was exciting,” he said.

“That was my first proper international men’s game. I got to referee some of the players I really like. It was daunting because you really want to sit back and watch but it was a great opportunity.”

His next venture will see the Newcastle export in close contact with some of his favourite players.

“There are a lot of exciting players around at the moment,” Beker told the Newcastle Weekly.

[Nikola] Jokic from Serbia, and Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece, they’re probably the top for me at the moment.”

Beker will be one of 23 Australian NBL referees to officiate at the qualifying games in either Canada, Serbia, Croatia and Lithuania.

“There’s a lot of negotiations to take place yet but I’m confident it [Tokyo Olympics] will go ahead, it’s just a matter logistics.” 

When he’s not on a basketball court the father-of-two says he’s on a skateboard at the Bar Beach’s Empire Skatepark.

“I’ve been skating for as long as I’ve been around basketball,” he said.

“That’s how I spend my downtime with the kids.”

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