The last University of Richmond player to average more than 20 points at season’s end will be on the court in Charlotte, N.C., for the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 17. Glen Allen resident Curtis Blair is officiating.
The NBA rewards officials’ quality work with All-Star assignments. This is the first All-Star Game assignment for Blair, who’s in his 11th NBA season.
“I was very surprised, and I was extremely happy, especially with it being in Charlotte,” Blair, who’s 48 and married with two teenage children, said Monday. “My mom and dad get to drive down from Roanoke to watch the game and enjoy the festivities, and, of course, my family, and I have some cousins in Charlotte who will be there as well.
“I’m very grateful for that.”
Blair, a Roanoke native, was named CAA player of the year in 1992 as a Spiders senior, when he averaged 20.3 points. He ranks No. 9 on UR’s career scoring list (1,630 points), and was inducted into the UR Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.
By Spider fans, the 6-foot-3 Blair is remembered for his performance against Syracuse in the 1991 NCAA tournament. In UR’s 73-69 win, the first by a No. 15 seed over a No. 2 seed, Blair scored 18 points with six assists and three steals.
Three Syracuse starters in that upset played in the NBA (Billy Owens, LeRon Ellis, Dave Johnson).
Blair was selected in the second round of the 1992 NBA draft by Houston and went on to play professionally in Australia, Austria and Turkey.
Blair wasn’t initially interested in coaching, but wanted to stay in the game. During his playing career, he occasionally was told his calm disposition and basketball knowledge would make him a good candidate for officiating.
With encouragement and guidance from veteran area officials Ray Bullock and Jerry Stone, Blair began officiating in 2000.
Blair now is an assistant coach at The Steward School, though he is out of town on officiating assignments approximately 20 days a month. When he is coaching, Blair said he notices officials for their demeanor, how they handle coaches, and “what type of calls they make, and what type of calls they do not make.”
As an official, Blair began by working middle school games, AAU games, JV games and varsity games on the high school level, and then moved into college officiating (ACC, A-10, CAA). Blair elevated to the NBA Developmental League (now the G League) for six seasons, and then the NBA.
“Probably after about the first two or three years of officiating, getting to the highest level was my ultimate goal,” said Blair, who works about 55 NBA games per season. Blair would like to continue officiating into his 60s.
Some other former Spiders players have NBA connections this season. Kenny Atkinson coaches the Brooklyn Nets and on his staff is Chris Fleming. Dan Geriot is an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Justin Harper, who has played for Philadelphia, Detroit and Orlando, is with the South Bay Lakers in the G League.
The NBA officials’ roster of nearly 70 includes a handful of other officials with Virginia connections: Brandon Adair (first season), from Virginia Beach (Princess Anne H.S., Virginia Wesleyan); Tony Brothers (25th season), from Norfolk (Booker T. Washington H.S., Old Dominion); Leroy Richardson (24th season), a Suffolk resident; Jonathan Sterling (second season), a Hampton native; and Tom Washington (28th season), a Norfolk State graduate.