LYNCHBURG, Va., (WFXR) — He’s officiated some of the biggest games in college basketball. Roanoke native and college basketball official Roger Ayers was in Lynchburg for the Hoop It Up Clinic Friday, not to ref a game but as a guest speaker. Ayers is bouncing back since missing the NCAA tournament last March due to COVID-19. “This is the first time I heard a basketball bounce since I left the NCAA bubble. So, it’s nice to get back into basketball mode and realize how lucky we are to get to do what we do and it’s a great thing, so I’m blessed I’m one of the fortunate ones,” said Ayers.
Just a few months ago Ayers received a test result that changed his life forever. “Obviously, I was at the NCAA tournament, and I was ready to go and then Monday morning we took a COVID test and of the 60 refs that were there mine came back positive,” said Ayers. Ayers said he felt fine and was tested a second time in Indianapolis. But the result stayed the same and for the first time in almost 17 seasons he missed the tournament and was sent home and that’s when real test had begun.
“The first couple of days I felt fine and then about the third day it hit me hard and then the breathing became a problem, so it goes to be a little scary and then I knew COVID is for real now obviously because I had taken all the precautions all year,” said Ayers. With COVID behind him, Ayers is now able to step back on the court to help mentor kids an although he’s not calling fouls or throwing coaches out of games at the clinic, being back on the hardwood is something he’ll never take for granted.
“I’m used to being booed and I’m not used to the kids clapping for me so I’ll take any claps I can get. But it’s just nice to get back to normalcy in everyone’s life and certainly to see these kids out here smiling and dribbling a basketball I’m just blessed to come help today,” said Ayers.