Transition Game: former Catbird stays close to the game he love - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Transition Game: former Catbird stays close to the game he loves

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

Mark Davis's pro basketball journey has taken him from the NBA, to the CBA and the European League.
But for the last 15 years, Davis has gone back high school to give back to the game.

Davis is far removed from his playing days as a pro.
But basketball remains close to his heart.
"You want these guys to have success on the basketball court and we not be the reason they win or lose a basketball game," Davis said about becoming a high school official.

Drafted by Cleveland in 1985, he played the 1988-89 season with Milwaukee and later briefly with Phoenix.
"Seeing some of the players.  Playing against players like Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley.  Just to play against those guys...these players today think they're better than back then, no.  Can't compare," Davis said.

He also had a long career playing overseas in Italy and Spain.
But it was his time with the CBA's Catbirds in La Crosse that he made his mark as pro in the states.
 He was a part of a CBA title team in 1992 under the late Flip Saunders.

"Flip was probably one of the best coaches I've ever had in my life, NBA, college, whatever.  He was a basketball junkie and he watched so much film and he would do so much scouting.  He was a basketball genius."

But when his playing days were over Davis still had the itch, the itch to stay close to the game that had been so good to him.

"They had a class over at UW-La Crosse, a refereeing class and I took that.  I'm like 'hey, this could be fun' because I wanted to know what I was doing first because I know how hard of a job it is reffing.  The more I got into it the more I enjoyed it."  

Davis has officiated at the high school level for several years.
But the transition from pro player to referee wasn't easy.

"It was tough when I first got into it because you're nervous, you don't want coaches yelling at you.   You don't want fans yelling at you. But now I love it."

Being a former player at a high level has helped him relate to current players, especially when they don't see eye to eye.

"I tell a lot of guys when I referee I've been where you were at.  Just relax.  I'm not going to give you a technical right now because I've been there.  But you need to settle down and just play basketball.  And most of the guys just listen and they do it.  It keeps me close to the game and I love basketball more than anything.  That's why I do it."

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