Nathan Trujillo is more than a student of the game, more than a basketball nerd…he’s what one would call a clairvoyant.
Playing basketball as a child, Trujillo developed not only a passion for the game, but a technical know -how that far exceeds just basketball IQ. Developing himself so much in the game, that basketball became a part of his DNA. With the uncanny ability to see the court and understand the contextual nature of the sport, Trujillo has become a referee in Denver’s CCHA (Colorado Catholic High School) Association) with many accolades that include a student assistant at Metro State while the Road Runners won back-to-back titles (2004 & 2005).
Trujillo stands at the US average of 5 feet 9 inches while many of the players on the court are more than 6’ feet tall. “With players that are so tall, I have to make sure that I can see all the action and make the right call when necessary,” says Trujillo. “A lot of times plays can happen so fast that you have to make a call just as fast,”
Refereeing is more than an art, it’s a tradition of artwork. The ebb and flow of the game is due in large part to the ability of refs to remain unseen-at all levels. The mistakes made by refs are usually minor and are highlighted by fan emotion, for Trujillo, they can be highlighted by the emotion of parents as he is in the high school ranks.
“Communication is my main tool,” says Trujillo. By firmly establishing the rules and what he will not tolerate on the floor Trujillo builds a relationship prior to tip off with players and coaches and chooses to ignore the unruly parent who offers their superlatives from the stands. “You have to do your job and ignore the obnoxious parent,”
Using the best angle on lay-ups, the continuous side-to-side movement on picks and screens and a keen set of eyes Trujillo establishes his present on the court and not in the minds of a player. When calls are contested, “Being able to explain to him (the player) what we saw during the play and what we would’ve done had we not blown the whistle-how things can escalate,” explains Trujillo.
As basketball develops faster than any contemporary sport, Trujillo believes that referees are evolving with the players. This includes staying current with trends in the game and off season training, where refs review footage and work with more experienced refs on what to look for and what calls can be avoided, again through communication with players prior to the start of a game.
“If you use instant replay as more than a tool then you are taking away from the human aspect of the game, human error allows athletes to be athletes-allows the game to be played at a higher level. tweaking the parameters here and there or from year to year, to make sure the integrity of the game stays where it is at,” states Trujillo on the over abundant use of instant replay at the professional level.
By using applying instant replay in a strict set of situations, Trujillo believes that you are encouraging the players to use their best assets on the floor and not limiting the action. However, he believes that instant replay is better for the game.
With unruly fans, Trujillo is a dynamite ref who has only had one situation that escalated. However the master of communication, he was able to diffuse the situation and kept both himself and his young son (then six-years-old safe). “A parent was upset about a close game that came down to the final possession in the final seconds and followed me to my car,” Assuredly, he made the right call.
As refereeing displays its artwork throw athleticism-they too run up and down the court-air tight angles and a perspective that is objective, Trujillo has made his version of the Mona Lisa with establishing himself as invisible yet ever present.