For recent accounting graduate, Agon Abazi, a dream of his is now becoming a reality.
Abazi’s passion for basketball and goal of coaching the sport took a turn when he began working for Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Campus Recreation as an Intramural (IM) Sports official during the spring quarter of his first year at Cal Poly Pomona (CPP).
“I wanted to coach first, initially,” Abazi explained. “My high school coach gave me the opportunity to coach freshman boys’ basketball, but he told me I had to step onto the floor and officiate some games first so I could get a different perspective and so I’m not yelling at the referees the whole time.”
After a night of searching YouTube referee instructional videos, Abazi nervously officiated his first game and did not blow the whistle until the last minute of the game. When he was paid for officiating the game, he was astounded by the fact that he could get paid to do something he loved. “Ever since then, I didn’t want to coach anymore and I just kept officiating,” he said.
“At that moment I think I caught the referee bug and couldn’t wait to step onto the floor again and do better,” he added. “The rest was history and I knew that all I wanted to do was referee.”
Beginning his path to the NBA, Abazi was also the first CPP IM Sports official selected as an All-American and officiated the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) National Basketball Championships in 2016 at Ohio State University.
“I got a direct bid to go to the national tournament, which is in Ohio. At the national tournament, there were scouts from NCAA Division 1 and NBA watching and people who have input on who goes to certain tryout camps,” Abazi explained.
“I went to the national tournament, worked a few games there, got scouted during the season, after that, they came out and watched me referee games and I got an opportunity to go to the first tryout last year. I didn’t advance then, but they brought me back again this year,” he recalled. “So if it wasn’t for those opportunities to be able to go to those tournaments, I would never have had been recognized at that point.”
When going into detail about his new opportunity, Abazi said, “I just got hired into the NBA system and I’m going to be reffing games in their G League. I have opportunities to work part-time in the NBA and then eventually I’ll get a contract to work full time. This is pretty much the next step to the experience.”
Prior to his offer, Abazi participated in the Emerging Leaders program, which helped him fund trips to various camps where he grew his officiating skills. “It has been really good because I’ve been able to bring back what I’ve learned there to our staff here to help them grow as well,” he reflected.
The Emerging Leaders Program is an avenue that provides student employees of ASI opportunities to advance their skill set and leadership skills through attending relevant conferences and certification courses across the nation.
Abazi recommends that student employees within ASI do not miss the opportunity to participate in the program since it helped him get to where he is today. He said, “Even if you’re thinking about it, just do it because you never know what could come of it. I went just because I thought it would be a fun experience and it opened up so many more doors for me than what I thought it would,” he said. “If you’re thinking about it, just take it.”
Even though Abazi will be traveling around the country to officiate games once the season starts, he will still be active on campus come next semester. “As far as being involved with ASI and Campus Recreation, I want to continue to just be a part of this program here and give back as much as I can because they’ve done so much for me…I want to be able to stay as involved as I can.”