03102023   refs

Terry Holleman, left, and his son, Adam, stand center court Thursday at State Farm Center in Champaign.

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CHAMPAIGN — When Terry Holleman refereed local prep basketball games, no one would have more honest assessments of his performance than his son, Adam.

Before Adam had even entered middle school, he’d sit in the stands of contests his father worked and offer his review on the drives back home.

“I’d ask him after the game, ‘Well, how did I do?’ And he’d critique me,” Holleman recalled. “He’d say, ‘That charge call, I’m not too sure about that, Dad. That might’ve been a block.’”

The younger Holleman, now 46, watched throughout the twilight of his dad’s 40-year officiating career, which peaked in spots at the IHSA girls’ basketball state finals in 1998, 1999 and the championship game in 2001.

This year, it’s Terry’s turn to watch and learn.

With 24 years of officiating under his own belt, Adam is donning the stripes at the IHSA boys’ basketball state finals in their native Champaign this week.

“I had a goal to do this, and not all officials do,” Adam Holleman said Thursday morning. “When my dad worked a state finals, I wanted to be there someday. It’s a dream come true.”

Adam’s Friday schedule is sorted out: After working the Class 1A third-place game Thursday night, he’ll be making calls for today’s Class 3A semifinal bout between Chicago Simeon and St. Ignatius College Prep.

Meanwhile, Terry has played co-host for the visiting Teutopolis basketball team, helping players and coaches coordinate practice spots and get acquainted with the C-U community in their downtime.

He’ll spend the rest of his weekend being a proud father.

“My chest will be so puffed out,” Terry Holleman said. “I think I’m more fired up than Adam is.”

For thousands of IHSA refs statewide, working a state finals game is no common feat. Only 18 top-rated officials make the cut each year, judged on their experience, clinic attendance, rules knowledge and favorability score among athletic directors and coaches.

Adam Holleman came up through local schools, first St. Matthew Catholic then Centennial High School. He went to Blackburn College in Carlinville to play D-III football and later transfered to Eastern Illinois University to complete his elementary education degree.

Officiating wasn’t on his mind back then, not until an IHSA recruitment visit ended up being a father-son meetup. Terry and a colleague were sent to Charleston to teach an officiating class and bring in new referee talent — Adam ended up taking the first part of his rules test that day in 1999.

And he’s developed into a cool-headed, calming presence on the court; both Hollemans attribute the quality to his day job as a fourth-grade teacher at Homer Elementary.

“He’s a great, great referee, he has a demeanor about him which I did not,” Dad said. “He can talk coaches down, they’ll be upset about something, and Adam will go over cool, calm and collected — unlike his dad — and settle everybody down.”

Holleman credits his dad, and a network of reffing mentors, for keeping him on the right path.

“Each game is its own different thing. You try to see the first couple minutes, what are they going to play through, what can they handle as far as contact?” he said. “I go into a game having the set philosophy of how I call a game, but the players can dictate how much we’re going to need to implement.”

It’s still up in the air whether Adam Holleman will suit up for the championship games on Saturday. But the father-son duo has a referee-related event to look forward to, when Terry gets inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in May.

What makes the opportunity extra special for Terry, who watched the IHSA state finals back in its days at Huff Hall, is watching games in Champaign, not too far from the farm he grew up on.

“I think it’s wonderful that it’s back here in town,” he said, (though it was apparently easier for him to find places to eat in Peoria.) “Hopefully it’ll stay.”

High school basketball’s unique atmosphere and camaraderie has kept Adam in the game, he said.

“You meet a lot of great people through this avocation,” he said. “The car rides there and back with Dad, hearing different stories and everything and experiences, it was a lot of great memories. I’ve been with him through all his postseasons as a proud son.

“If this is the only state final I officiate, I’ll still be tickled pink I got a chance to do it.”

Ethan Simmons is a reporter at The News-Gazette covering the University of Illinois. His email is esimmons@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@ethancsimmons).