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Pfeifer works his way up reffing ladder

Mitchell referee Kelly Pfeifer talks with former Nebraska men's basketball coach Tim Miles during a game against Iowa at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, this past season. (Bruce Thorson / USA TODAY Sports)

Kelly Pfeifer continues to earn his stripes in NCAA Division I men's basketball, while also remembering his roots.

The Mitchell resident officiated roughly 90 Division I men's college basketball games this season, including a pair of NCAA tournament contests in Des Moines, Iowa. One day after Pfeifer's final NCAA tournament game on March 23, he was back in Mitchell officiating the 2019 South Dakota Special Olympics state basketball tournament.

Pfeifer, who has helped with the event since he was in college at Dakota Wesleyan University, reffed four games with his wife Ashley at this year's Special Olympics tournament.

"It's something to our family that is important and I try to help out and you have to remember where you came from and you need to give back," Pfeifer said. "It was fun and I enjoy it."

He also continues to enjoy his duties as an accomplished NCAA Division I referee. Pfeifer is in his ninth season refereeing Division I hoops and the 2018-19 season was another "busy year," said Pfeifer.

He officiated games in 11 different Division I conferences: Big Ten, Pac 12, Mountain West Conference, West Coast Conference, Big Sky, Summit League, Mid-American Conference, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, American East Conference, Western Atlantic Conference and Horizon League.

"It was a good year," Pfeifer said. "It's a great experience and I am very fortunate I get to do what I do."

Pfeifer has been officiating basketball for 14 years overall and he's worked his way up from subvarsity games, varsity games, NAIA and NCAA Division II while eventually earning Division I status.

"When I got started reffing, my first goal was to work the State B boys basketball tournament in Aberdeen," Pfeifer said. "I got to do that twice and then every year I have re-evaluated my goals."

He's also officiated games in the NBA Development League and NBA Summer League. But the former DWU basketball player is content at the college level.

"That is what I knew," Pfeifer said. "I knew the college game. The pro game was great. It taught me a lot of stuff, but I made the decision to go the college route."

The college route has led the Philip native to some of the most iconic venues in major college basketball, while also officiating games at Madison Square Garden.

"I love them all," Pfeifer said. "I get to go see some pretty neat venues and some pretty historic places. It is awesome to be a part of it."

Pfeifer, 38, added he would like to continue reffing college basketball "for a long time," and strives to be at his best on the hardwood.

"(I want to) just keep growing as a referee, keep learning, keep getting better every year and there are certain things I am always working on," Pfeifer said. "The day that I don't keep improving, is the day I better quit."

A customer relations manager with Vantage Point Solutions in Mitchell, Pfeifer is able to do his work on the road during the basketball season. Pfeifer also has full support from his wife and stepson, Carver; daughter, Khloe; and daughter, Collins.

"Without their support, I wouldn't be able to do this," he said.

Pfeifer will be a guest speaker at today's Mitchell Quarterback Club at 7:30 p.m. at the Freighthouse room at The Depot.

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