Ross, Wedding still involved in game they love

Two Black women were referees in the Boys’ 7th-8th Grade game between the Big Game Hunters and OBKY Elite on Friday night at the 48th annual Dust Bowl outdoor basketball tournament.

Relatively speaking, this is rare. Neither, however, view themselves as trailblazers in the sport.

Instead, Nycole Ross of Providence and Valencia Redding of Evansville consider themselves humanitarians who simply want the best for today’s youths — and both seem willing to do all they can to make this a reality.

“All children are God’s children,” said Ross, a 1992 graduate of Webster County High School. “They’re our future, and I’ve got to treat ’m right. I love all children and I try to teach them any way I can do it — give ’em the best advice that I can, let them know they can count on me.

“I’ve always had a great love for basketball, and officiating is a way I can stay connected to the game.”

Both Ross and Redding were star athletes in high school.

Ross played her final two years of basketball at Webster County after transferring from Providence. At Webster County, she was a teammate of Kentucky 1993 Miss Basketball Brandi Ashby, who played at both Western Kentucky and Hawaii.

Ross also was a four-year track star in high school, winning a KHSAA Class A triple jump state championship while at Providence.

Ross has been a basketball official for 10 years.

“My daughter played sports up through 12th grade and decided not to play in college,” Ross recalled. “I was just bored mainly, so I decided to become an official — it got me back into the game I love, and I’ve really enjoyed doing this. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Redding, a 1979 graduate of Evansville’s Harrison High School, averaged 22 points per game in basketball, was an All-State performer in volleyball, and was a four-year star on the track.

“You can’t (officiate) unless you love it and are in it for the right reasons,” Redding said. “The entire time you’re on the court, you’re teaching youngsters discipline, teaching them to respect the game, teaching them to respect the officials.

“It’s fun and rewarding when you actually get them to do these things, and that’s when you know you’ve made a difference.”

Redding has been a basketball official for several years, having retired after a long career with the U.S. Postal Service.

“I ended up at (Evansville’s) CK Newsome Community Center and they were always needing officials and umpires, and after that, I got into it a little more seriously,” Redding said. “It was a way to get back into a sport that I love, and it’s just been a lot of fun to be involved with basketball again.

“Officials are a big part of basketball, of course, and I just appreciate being out here — teaching kids the right way to play the game.”

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