A dream come true: Waco referee officiates in the pinnacle of college basketball

Keith Kimble was the referee in the men’s NCAA national championship game
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 8:07 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Waco native has just returned to Central Texas after refereeing the men’s NCAA national championship game, and says officiating in the pinnacle of college basketball is a dream come true.

Keith Kimble, a 1990 graduate of Waco High School, officiated the game between UConn and San Diego State Monday night in Houston.

“I loved it. It was a blessing for me,” Kimble said. “Took me to a point to where I set goals to where I wanted to be. And you know what? The Lord has blessed me to get to those.”

Kimble has had a love for the game his entire life.

He played basketball at Waco High School from 1986-1990, and McLennan Community College the first two seasons out of high school.

He refereed his first game in 1999 and never looked back. “It’s been a journey for me,” Kimble said.

Keith Kimble photos
Keith Kimble photos(Courtesy Photos)

Kimble got his first big break when he began calling division 1 games in 2002. He worked his first NCAA tournament in 2013.

In 2018, Kimble got the biggest assignment of his career, going to the Final Four as an alternate ref.

“I went as an alternate, and soaked everything in, and looked around in amazement at how many people and how many cameras there were,” Kimble said. “Wow, that was nerve wracking!”

The next year, Kimble was tapped to call a Final Four game. “Once I hit the floor the next year in 2019, I had butterflies, big time! Just looking at 90,000 fans at the game and then the television and representing Waco as well,” Kimbell said. “But, once the ball is thrown up, I just went back to a mode and did my job.”

Kimble has officiated the last four Final Fours.

The first national championship game he worked was between the Baylor men and Gonzaga in 2021, in which Baylor brought home its first national title.

“I had to study a lot to help understand and work to master my craft,” he said. “Each summer, which is the off season, is my best time to work to improve.”

Despite being a full-time NCAA official, working games in all major conferences, but mostly Big 12, Kimble finds time to give back to area youth by calling games, many at the Dewey Recreational Center in Waco.

He says he hopes his story inspires youngsters.

“I want to show the youth that dreams and goals can be accomplished if they work hard, and believe in themselves.” Kimble said. “I am living proof that anything is possible if you put your mind and efforts toward the positive.”

Kimble was inducted into the Waco ISD’s Athletic Hall of Fame this past summer alongside NFL star and Waco native Andrew Billings.