Two Jefferson City natives committed to a life of NBA officiating.
Matt Myers and Lauren Holtkamp may have similar occupations, but on their respective journeys, each have encountered different obstacles — and their fair share of them.
To be frank, Myers and Holtkamp don’t have professions like you or I. Would you believe that Jefferson City is the home to two current NBA officials, both of whom make it a goal to uphold the quality and truth in the game of professional basketball?
“I never stopped believing that one day I could be an NBA referee,” says Matt Myers.
Myers embodies what it means to be persistent, with a definitive work ethic and demeanor to “keep doing the right things and not take any shortcuts.” This mantra is an instilled characteristic of his lifestyle today, one that roots back to his time spent in Jefferson City with his parents, Albert and Vicki.
Today, Myers lives in Washington, D.C., but a bulk of his time is spent outside of the nation’s capital. Having trekked thousands of miles every which way, including both domestic and international, Myers has grown accustomed to traveling. Now in his third year with the NBA, persistence has never been more important, considering he spends nearly 10 months on the road, officiating eight to 12 games per month in basketball’s most competitive league. And as one would suspect, becoming an official in the NBA is no overnight success story. In fact, Myers could attest that the steps involved in becoming a league official take athleticism, intelligence, integrity, and a whole lot of patience.
Basketball wasn’t necessarily Myers’ first calling, but he has always been intertwined with sports. A Jefferson City High School graduate, Myers was a three-sport athlete for the Jays, playing basketball, soccer, and golf. His father, in a sense, was the foot in the door Matt needed; Albert has a vast network and years of coaching and officiating experience in and around Jefferson City. It was during his sophomore year of high school that Myers’ first exposure to basketball officiating transpired. It was at an AAU tournament inside of Fleming Fieldhouse, the same gymnasium he would routinely pass on his way to class.
Following high school, Myers went on to Hampton University, a historically Black college located in Hampton, Virginia, to play golf and major in electrical engineering. And like any typical college student, finding means of making money became a priority.
“I remember calling my dad and him explaining that I needed to go and find the local rec department and see if I could ref games and make some money,” he says.
Myers did exactly that, and from that moment, officiating became more than a summer gig. From rec leagues to joining a local high school association, Myers began to comprise a network himself, a social circle of officials that suggested he consider the college ranks.
“I knew I wanted to be better,” Myers says. “I wanted to do something in officiating. I met people who reffed at a higher level, and if the opportunity presented itself, I wanted to go for it.”
Following a successful collegiate tryout, one of Myers’ first opportunities came in 2005, when he began officiating Division III basketball in the USA South Athletic Conference. By the next year, Myers jumped to the Big South, a notable NCAA Division I conference. In 2007, Myers would take another leap, this time to the professional ranks and the NBA G League (formally the NBA Developmental League). Over the course of the next 11 seasons, Myers would go on to officiate hundreds of G League games, including three league finals and an all-star contest. Other stops along the way include international layovers as a certified FIBA (International Basketball Federation) official, having officiated the men’s 2019 FIBA World Cup and other international events in destinations such as China, Chile, and Egypt. He reffed in the WNBA from 2011 to 2013.
As he was climbing the ranks, Myers also held other jobs. He worked as a facility engineer with UPS and as a substitute teacher, a position he held for nearly a decade. Interestingly enough, it was again his father, having experience substitute teaching at Thorpe Gordon Elementary, who advised Myers to consider the job. Having worked primarily with elementary students, Myers reflected on the likeness and application between what he saw on the court to interactions with kids in the classroom.
“I soon found out that there are a number of parallels between officiating and teaching, especially in the case of managing different emotions and handling conflict resolution.”
By 2018, the NBA jump was within grasp, and by Mid-November, Myers finally got the call. He was promoted to a full-time member of the NBA’s officiating staff. By season’s end, Myers had racked up 33 regular-season games.
“It was a long path, but well worth it. All the sacrifices, going to camps, and being in the G League were well worth it,” he says.
For Myers, it was his sustained persistence that propelled him to fulfill his dream job. It’s been a dream achieved because of a support system in his parents and colleagues; a dream achieved because of his willingness to trust the process and because of his acceptance that failure may happen. In the words of the late Kobe Bryant, “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will do it for you.” Myers’ can-do drive is exhibited both on and off the court. Dream achieved.
“It is such a privilege to do things that bring you joy,” says Lauren Holtkamp.
Holtkamp has always had a love for sports, but for her, it’s a love that’s best when shared.
Born and raised in Jefferson City, today Holtkamp resides in Decatur, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. For Holtkamp, NBA officiating is a family affair — her husband, Jonathan, is also a referee. They each take it as a serious responsibility, being guardians to the game of basketball by not only enforcing the rules but recognizing the truth of the moment.
Prior to making a name for herself in the NBA, Holtkamp was nurturing her passion in JC. From a young age, her parents, Bob and Sally, her sister, Brianne, and grandmother, Catherine, encouraged her interest in sports.
“Sports are what brought us together and allowed us to connect to other people,” she says. “They gave us purpose and joy and fostered a sense of courage to know that it is OK to fail but then get back up.”
During her childhood, Holtkamp spent the vast majority of her free time either outside or competing. She grew up on the outskirts of the city, and when she wasn’t exploring nature or riding horses, Holtkamp was involved in sports like swimming, dance, volleyball, and of course, basketball.
“My family were members of the Knowles YMCA, and I remember walking after school from Thorpe Gordon Elementary to the Y for swim team practice and then going to shoot baskets,” Holtkamp recalls.
It was these types of youth experiences that provided her with an athletic foundation for success in high school and eventually college.
Holtkamp is a 1999 graduate of Jefferson City High School. While at JCHS, she was a strong athlete for both the volleyball and basketball teams, having played varsity for multiple years, despite having torn her ACL in both knees. She attributes her ability to face adversity head-on to her former coaches Gail Jones, Lisa Dey, Joy Northwether, and Curt Yaeger.
“Without these people, I would not have pursued a career in the sports world,” she says.
Following high school, Holtkamp went on to attend Missouri State but transferred her sophomore year to nearby Drury University to play on their newly formed women’s basketball team. From 2000 to 2004, Holtkamp played in 88 games for Drury, helping the team amass a four-year record of 101-22 and play for an NCAA Division II national championship in 2004. She ended up graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration degree and a master’s degree in marketing and communication. In 2017, Holtkamp was inducted into the Drury Hall of Fame.
Coming out of Drury, Holtkamp landed a job with the school’s alumni association and found time to also start coaching basketball and officiating middle school and high school games. Ultimately, she would land in Atlanta and pursue a master’s in divinity from Emory University. It was during this time, in 2006, that Holtkamp also started officiating in the NCAA, accruing experience in conferences including the ACC, Big 10, and Big 12. In 2008, she started officiating internationally, having refereed various FIBA contests, and from 2010 to 2014, Holtkamp worked in the WNBA. Prior to joining the NBA, Holtkamp also officiated in the G League, officiating in the league’s finals in 2013 and 2014.
In 2014, Holtkamp landed on the big stage, becoming the third female referee to officiate in the NBA’s illustrious history, joining Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner. The league currently has five women referees full-time. Over the course of five seasons, Holtkamp has officiated more than 200 games.
Lauren and Johnathan are the only couple to officiate in the league at the same time. They’re also parents. In 2019, the two welcomed their daughter, Stoan, into the world. Considering it is not uncommon for an NBA official to spend 20 to 25 days on the road each month, it also happens that Lauren and Jonathan sometimes go weeks without seeing one another. And yet, through it all, what remains true is their undeniable commitment to each other and their daughter. Lauren recalls the sacrifices that her family would frequently make to provide opportunities for her and her sister, between all the sports practices and other ventures in their younger lives.
“As a working mother, I recognize the level of intentionality and sacrifice that my parents went through, and I can appreciate it every day I go to work,” she says.
Lauren Holtkamp is more than an NBA official — she’s a daughter, sister, granddaughter, wife, and mother. And whether it’s passion for the game or commitment to her all-star family, Holtkamp is a reflection of all she loves.