Devils Lake native joins Division I officiating ranks

Mike Bellmore, Features Editor
Rob Kueneman

Devils Lake product Rob Kueneman will enter his 20th year of officiating basketball this season.

And he’ll begin it with a rather lofty status as perhaps the first male official from North Dakota on the official staff of D-I basketball. Kueneman will work in the Summit League, which includes North Dakota State University.

Kueneman is reaching a pinnacle in a career that began as an official working out of Devils Lake.

And he is quick to spread the credit.

“I’ve had a lot of mentors and many of them are from Devils Lake,” says Kueneman, who now lives and works in Fargo. “I?think we’ve all learned from each other.”

This will be Kueneman’s 10th year of working college basketball games.

For the past 20 years basketball has occupied a big chunk of his life.

Being a former athlete himself, he says officiating is a grand way to remain involved in the game and develop friendships and commraderie with other officials and athletes.

 One negative is the late-night travel — often alone. Being out on the road in North Dakota’s legendary winter weather can sometimes be troublesome.

“That’s part of the deal,” adds Kueneman.

As he climbs to higher levels of officiating, Kueneman says it can be tougher than the lower levels, and sometimes it’s easier.

The athletes at the higher levels possess skills that are not often present at the lower levels, and they know the game so well.

But it is a challenge, he says, because it is basically a “big business” for so many D-I schools.

Kueneman says he tries to keep his priorities in order, even though he travels a lot and is often gone from home in the evenings.

Family comes first as he tries to limit his on-court activities to three or maybe four nights a week.

“But you do need an understanding wife, and I’ve got one,” he smiles.

Last year he worked the NAIA national tournament, and  he has been presented with some other opportunities at times.

At that tournament, there was a scout from the professional ranks who approached him, but nothing was settled.

He knows they’re watching, however.

“I’m happy where I’m at,” Kueneman said.