ATLANTA (September 7, 2023) – The Atlanta Tipoff Club named Mark Zentz as the 2023 Naismith Women’s College Official of the Year and Michael Stephens as the 2023 Naismith Men’s College Official of the Year for their contributions to the sport of basketball. Both will be recognized during the 2023 NCAA Basketball Regional Officiating clinics this fall.
First presented in 1988, the Naismith Official of the Year Awards recognize individuals who display character, integrity and dignity and have contributed mightily to the growth, success, and viability of college basketball. To be eligible, an individual must have been involved with the sport as a game official for a minimum of 20 years and worked both the NCAA Tournament and a conference tournament as a game official and retired from on-court officiating.
Over the course of his illustrious career Zentz was an active official for 31 years in the following leagues: ACC, Atlantic 10, ASUN, BIG EAST, Big Ten, Big 12, Colonial, Conference USA, MAC, Missouri Valley, Patriot, SEC and Sun Belt. He officiated in 24 NCAA Tournaments, including 17 regionals, three Final Fours, the 2015 national championship game and 27 conference championship finals. In addition, he worked in the WNBA for two seasons (2000 & 2001).
“I’m extremely honored and humbled to receive the Naismith Award. To look at the list of the past winners and to know my name is part of that group is surreal!” Zentz said. “I would like to thank the Atlanta Tipoff Club for honoring me with this award and their commitment to women’s basketball.”
Stephens is currently the Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officials for the America East, MAAC and Northeast 10 Conference. In his role he is responsible for the assigning of all Men’s Basketball officials as well as the education, recruitment, and training of officials. He began his officiating career in 2000 and was an active official in the following leagues: Atlantic 10, ACC, America East, American, BIG EAST, Big Ten, Big 12, CAA, Conference USA, IVY, MAAC, NEC, Patriot and SEC. Between 2011-2019, Stephens officiated in three Final Four games (2011, 2014, 2018) and four National Championship games (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019).
“The Naismith College Official of the Year Award is the greatest honor that can be awarded to an official, and I am overwhelmed with excitement and joy!” Stephens said. “I reflect back on 25 years of officiating and think of those who mentored me early on in my career. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have family and friends who supported my journey. I want to especially thank my wife and son for allowing me to live my dream; this award belongs to them. I want to thank everyone who found me worthy of this award. I feel honored to be in the same company of the officials who previously have received this prestigious award.”
“Both Mark and Mike have dedicated a tremendous amount of time and expertise to the sport through their officiating and their mentorship of younger officials both on and off the court,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. “Their contributions are noteworthy and will provide a positive impact on the game for years to come. It’s a privilege to consider them members of the Naismith Awards family.”
ABOUT THE ATLANTA TIPOFF CLUB
Founded during the 1956-57 season, the Atlanta Tipoff Club is committed to promoting the game of basketball and recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of those who make the game so exciting.
The Atlanta Tipoff Club administers the Naismith Awards, the most prestigious national honors in all of college and high school basketball. Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, inventor of the game of basketball, the family of Naismith Awards annually recognizes the most outstanding men’s and women’s college and high school basketball players and coaches. Other Naismith Awards are presented to the men’s and women’s college basketball defensive players of the year, as well as lifetime achievement awards to basketball officials and outstanding contributors to the game. UCLA’s Lew Alcindor received the first Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy in 1969, while the late Anne Donovan (Old Dominion) was the inaugural women’s recipient in 1983. Corporate partners of the Naismith Awards include Jersey Mike’s and Werner Ladder.
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Jackson Spalding for the Atlanta Tipoff Club