Christian Wilmore continues to set new milestones for Bahamian basketball referees and continues his progression through the FIBA ranks at some of the organisation’s most prestigious events.
Wilmore was a member of the on-court officiating crew in Monday’s FIBA World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifier between the United States and Puerto Rico at the Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz, California. The United States went on to win 83-75 and moved to 4-0 in Group C.
“I have officiated regionally at Centrobasket and two Junior World Championships and for me this experience is on the top of my list because it is the highest level game I have officiated thus far in my career,” Wilmore said. “It’s been a dream come true to be selected for this game. I started at the junior level refereeing many tournaments and championships but to reach the senior level in games that matter and that are very important for countries to determine whether or not you go to the World Cup is a sign that my hard work and my dedication to my craft has paid off and is being recognized.”
The crew also included Guilherme Locatelli of Brazil and Alejando Sanchez of Uruguay.
“The first thing I do is to scout the teams, so I go and watch previous games they have played, in this case the previous window and I want to get a feel for what they try to do on offence and defence. I want to get a sense of the behavior of the team – Are they physical? Are they run and gun? What’s their temperament, are they fiery or is it cool calm and collected? From that I can prepare myself for what I need to focus on. The mental imagery is important as I prepare myself for what I will see in the game. Also, you want to go through any new rules that may have come into effect,” he said “When you have worked so hard you definitely don’t want to squander the opportunity so are there are some nerves of not performing up to your capability. Just like the players we want to have the best game once they get to a high level, the same is true for us and we want to demonstrate that we can handle the situation and perform under pressure.”
At home, Wilmore served as the Instant Replay Official in the first window when the Bahamas hosted the Virgin Islands in November. He also served as the Instant replay official in the second window when the Bahamas hosted the Dominican Republic and USVI played Canada at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
He noted the difference in approach in serving as an official from both perspectives, on the sidelines and on the floor.
“The biggest difference between being an instant replay operator and official on the court is the scope of things I need to be prepared to handle. With replay there are defined situations. You have to consider when can things can be reviewed and what can be reviewed, so the preparation is much less broad than when you officiate on the court. When you officiate on the court you are preparing for two teams, 24 players many different personalities, two coaches, fouls, violations, the atmosphere and all kinds of different factors that go into how a game takes shape. As a replay operator you have assistance, you have documents, you have time to make decisions, but on the court, you make decisions in a split second so it’s a different approach and different preparation that goes into the positions.”
Wilmore is the youngest ever and first Bahamian to officiate a FIBA world championship and has officiated two world championships in five years on the circuit.
He has refereed in Russia at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup for Women. In 2012, he became the second-youngest official in the history of FIBA and the youngest to ever do so in the Western Hemisphere, at the age of 18. Since becoming an international referee, Wilmore has travelled extensively. His first international tournament took him to Uruguay in the summer of 2013 for a World Cup qualifier.
In June of 2014, Wilmore became the youngest person to ever officiate a FIBA World Cup when he travelled to the Czech Republic for the Under-17 FIBA World Cup for Women.
As his star climb in the field continues, Wilmore said he expects more opportunities to arise.
“The best part of being selected is simply the acknowledgement of being recognized. To get this call up to work a qualifier is confirmation of the last six years and to know that you are internationally recognized as a good referee. Once you break into the upper echelon you bring added pressure because people will look at you and expecting you to perform on a very high level all of the time, but I am prepared for that,” he said, “I expect to one day become the first Bahamian to referee at a senior World Championships or Olympic Games. As players want to play in these prestigious tournaments and as a referee my goals are no less different, I want to achieve the highest level possible.”