GROVE CITY, Pa. (EYT) – In a regulation basketball game, there are typically two or three officials present to make sure the game functions as it should. However, at some of these contests, it is easy to think there is an entire collection of referees as fans hoot and holler their calls from the stands.
(Photo by Eric Elliot.)
It truly takes a great deal of self-confidence, preparation, and love of the game to go through what these people endure.
For Leeper native Jeremy Schmader, officiating provides him the opportunity to stay involved in the game of basketball, a game that has given him so much to this point in his life with plenty more to come. The former North Clarion High standout enjoyed one of the best careers District 9 basketball has ever seen and scored 1,772 points in his four years to prove it – good for top 15 all-time in district history.
Schmader averaged 22.8 points, 6.1 boards, 4.5 assists, and three steals per game as a senior and led the Wolves to KSAC championship as a junior. As a senior, he also led North Clarion to a first-round upset over Venango Catholic in the first round of the District 9 playoffs held at Venango Catholic. The win knocked the Vikings out of the district tournament in the first round and allowed North Clarion to avenge two earlier season losses and end the quest for a perfect season by Venango Catholic.
“Winning a KSAC title and beating Venango Catholic are easily my sweetest memories from my playing days,” said the former North Clarion standout. “All I cared about was winning, and that meant more to me than any individual accomplishment. My teammates and winning with them was the best part of high school basketball for me.”
Jeremy was the youngest brother in his family with Josh being six years older and Justin four years older. Growing up with them allowed Jeremy to gain experience playing against bigger, stronger, and faster guys from a very early age.
“There were a lot of pick up games and also, my father coached North Clarion junior varsity for years which allowed me to go to open gyms and play against the older guys.”
Schmader first started playing organized basketball in the first grade, but his family tells him the first toys he consistently used growing up were a mini basketball hoop and a golf club, which is fitting considering basketball and golf are his two favorite sports to this day still.
Growing up in the era he did in Clarion County allowed Schmader to be on the founding Clarion Rising Star AAU basketball teams which went a long way in his development as a ballplayer leaving the area to play some of the best talent from the entire region, and in some cases, the entire country.
The Leeper native was recruited by a collection of Pennsylvania State University Athletic Conference (PSUAC) programs and was recruited very hard by Penn State DuBois and Penn State New Kensington. However, he decided that he wanted to head to Clarion University and try to walk on to the golf team.
While he fell short in this goal, he was not totally discouraged as he then tried out for the Clarion Golden Eagles basketball team and was able to successfully walk onto the team in 2011. For three seasons, Schmader represented the program and played in 46 games during that time. As a senior in college, he made the tough decision to walk away from basketball as a player and entered a new chapter as an official.
“It is a great alternative for playing the game, and I have really grown to enjoy it,” Schmader said. “I probably ref about 60 to 70 games a year between varsity and junior varsity. I help out as much as I can in the District 10 area and also some District 9 games, as well.”
Schmader, 28, talked about the level of commitment it takes to be an official and some things that are often overlooked when it comes to thinking about officiating.
“I think a lot of people do not understand how difficult it can be. There is a 70-plus page rule book, and the game can be very fast. It’s really tough to make split-second decisions on fouls and violations. Another thing is it is a big commitment to sacrifice a lot of evenings to referee, and I am lucky that my wife is so understanding and supportive of me doing this.”
Becoming an official has allowed Schmader to rekindle the love of the game of basketball, and he also enjoys seeing the game from a different perspective. While he enjoys this second job, he is employed full-time at IA Construction as a Regional Controller and has been with the company for over five years. In his role, he oversees finances for the entire region out of the office in Franklin.
While it was not his first job out of college as he moved to Maryland to work as an accountant, he is glad to be back in the area and now calls Grove City home. He and his wife, Kaylee, were married just last month and are looking forward to purchasing their first home in the near future together.
While Schmader has worked hard to get to where he is today as a young professional, he says he would not be where he is today without his parents Pam and Brad Schmader’s love and support in addition to the support from his brothers Josh and Justin and sister Kelsey.
“I can never thank my parents and family enough for sacrificing for me. They took me to so many AAU tournaments and helped me become the player I was and the man I am today.”
Another special group of people Schmader credits is all his basketball teammates from his time at North Clarion. With North Clarion being a small school, students are able to form close bonds and friendships with each other, and this chemistry carries over onto the basketball court, as well. He believes the success he had as a player would not have been possible without their support and hard work.
The former Golden Eagle made mention of the North Clarion fans’ overall support with one fan in particular who made a great impact on not just his life, but on the entire North Clarion community’s lives. Arianna Evans, who was born with Spina Bifida, was a dedicated follower of North Clarion basketball. She was Schmader’s biggest fan during his time as an athlete, and he even had the opportunity to escort her to prom.
Evans was crowned prom queen that evening, and the community rallied around this special young woman to give her one of the best days possible. Unfortunately, Evans is no longer with us; she succumbed to her condition on September 30, 2018, but her memory and spirit live on forever.
“It was an honor to be her escort that night,” Schmader said. “She is and will always be a special person to me. Being her escort that night was one of the best days of my life, and I hope it was one of hers, as well.”
Schmader has a lot of fun memories to look back on from his time as a player and hopes to continue to make a positive impact on the game as he continues his time as an official. It is not a secret that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find officials nationwide, and he hopes that more officials and some younger ones will join the effort to continue giving youth the chance to compete. At just 28, he could officiate thousands of more games and will undoubtedly continue to give back to the game that has given him and his family so much over the years.
To those interested in officiating in the District 9 and District 10 areas, visit http://www.tricitypiaabasketball.com to sign up and learn more.