Korean referee who moved to U.S. on a dream to become NBA referee officially lands the job


NEW YORK — The NBA has promoted Intae Hwang and Sha’Rae Mitchell to its full-time referee staff for the coming season.

Hwang is a native of South Korea who moved to New Jersey in 2020 with hopes of becoming a referee in the U.S. He worked seven games as a non-staff official last season and has also worked in the G League, the WNBA, the Summer Olympics and the Basketball World Cup.

Hwang discovered a love for basketball from a young age and became obsessed with learning everything about the sport while studying at Busan University of Foreign Studies after meeting a senior, Kirok Shin, who was a basketball referee, according to reporting by the Washington Post Sports.

Sha’Rae Mitchell calls the game between the Austin Spurs and the Delaware Blue Coats in Orlando, Fla., in 2021. Juan Ocampo / NBAE via Getty Images file

The NBA took notice of Hwang while he was working with FIBA and invited him to participate in their Referee Development Program in 2016. Despite not having the guarantee of a full-time job, Hwang “didn’t hesitate for one second” before making the 7,000-mile relocation, he told the Post.

Mitchell refereed 11 games as a non-staff official last season, and has also worked in the G League and WNBA. She also worked college games for five years, in the Pac-12, West Coast, Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences.

“We are thrilled to welcome Intae and Sha’Rae to our full-time staff,” NBA senior vice president for referee development and training Monty McCutchen said. “They have excelled in their performance areas and earned the right to officiate NBA games on a regular basis.”

Both will also work G League games this season, as all NBA referees with fewer than four years of service are asked to do.

The NBA has 74 full-time referees and eight other non-staff referees in line for games this season.



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