Local fans probably have seen this Wapakoneta man on the basketball court a hundred times. But most have probably never noticed him. He’s the proverbial unsung hero of high school sports.
His tools? A whistle and a striped shirt.
He is the referee.
Meet Steve Trout. Today he is the newest member of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame and resident of Wapakoneta. Steve has been officiating basketball for more than 35 years.
Trout was chosen for the 2013 class of the OBHF, and will join Ohio legends such as Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Clark Kellogg and Oscar Robertson.
Each year, one official is inducted into the OBHF, and that official is chosen by his or her peers.
“That’s about as high of an honor as you can have, to have your peers think you are worthy of something like that,” Trout said. “The Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame is the ultimate in basketball in Ohio.”
Doc Daugherty, co-founder of the OBHF, said that when the Hall of Fame was created in 2006, he and co-founder Don Henderson decided that one official would be inducted every year.
“We knew that we should recognize at least one official, and we decided that they elect one of their own, so we left it up to them,” Daugherty said.
Tom Toohig is the chairman of the Referee Nominating Committee for the OBHF. The nominating committee is a sub-committee of the Ohio Association of Basketball Officials. Toohig explained the process of how an official is chosen to be honored.
“The committee submits names for recommendation, then collectively, we decide on the recipient,” Toohig said. “Then we submit the name to (Daugherty) for approval.
“The goal is to decide who has given the most back to Ohio basketball,” he said.
Daugherty said he has personally observed Trout officiate at the Ohio High School State Tournament in Columbus and was impressed with his professionalism and talent.
Toohig said he has the chance to referee alongside Trout for several years at the collegiate level, and he is well deserving of the honor.
“He’s a remarkable person and an equally fine basketball official,” Toohig said. “He still gives back to the game”
Toohig said Trout frequently puts on seminars, classes and instructional camps for younger officials to teach them everything he has learned in all his years of coaching.
“He goes court to court and classroom to classroom to teach the younger officials the right way of doing things,” Toohig said. “He’s the cream of the crop.”
Trout graduated from the University of Findlay in 1974 with a degree in physical education. He began coaching high school basketball at New Knoxville High School in 1974, but later found officiating to be his calling.
“I did some officiating in college, and after coaching high school for several years I decided it wasn’t my thing,” Trout said.
Trout received his officiating licence for high school basketball in 1977, and his licence for collegiate basketball five years later. Trout said officiating Division III basketball has taken him to many exciting and exotic places around the nation. He highlighted a trip to Hawaii and two trips to Salem, Va. — the site of the Division III National Championship tournament.
When asked, Trout was not able to decide which level of competition he preferred to officiate.
“I enjoy officiating the collegiate level of play, the skill level of those players,” Trout said. “However, the crowds and the excitement at the high school level, well, it’s a super level.”
Trout has officiated 16 OHSSA State Championship games, and continues to officiate to this day.
The induction ceremony will be in May in Columbus. Trout said he has been to the ceremony a couple times before and said it is a great event honoring Ohio’s basketball legends. Trout said when he was sitting in the audience the thought crossed his mind if he could ever be inducted.
“You hope maybe it (could be me someday) ... but realistically, no. Never thought it would happen,” Trout said.