Retired Leachville referee among honorees at NEA Tournament
Retired basketball referee A.J. Bandy of Leachville was among those recognized as Friends of the NEA at the last night of the 2015 NEA Tournament at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center.
Bandy said it was an honor to be chosen to receive the award.
The honor is presented to fans, coaches, officials and others who have supported the NEA Tournament through the years.
Bandy was one of two officials among the group chosen. The other official was Jimmy "Killer" Cain of Joiner.
Bandy said he and Cain had worked together some during his 25 years of officiating high school basketball. He enjoyed visiting with him at the NEA ceremony.
Also honored was former area basketball player Darrell Bridges.
"Darrell was a great basketball player," Bandy said. "He is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Springdale."
Bandy said another honoree was Julie Hagood, a three time All-Conference player for ASU. He said he remembers her dad coaching at Dell.
"There were coaches and other fans honored, also," Bandy said. "It was a fun night."
The honorees received plaques from the NEA Invitational Basketball Tournament Executive Committee for their many contributions to the success of the NEA Tournament.
The NEA Tournament has been a successful tournament for 69 years.
Bandy also received honors for his years officiating in 2009 when he was inducted into the Arkansas Athletic Association Hall of Fame for coaches and referees.
He refereed basketball games for 25 years and enjoyed it. He worked at Brown Shoe Company for 25 years and with the Employment Security Department for 25 years, along with officiating games throughout Northeast Arkansas. He enjoyed the people he met through the basketball games.
Bandy said he made good friends including administrators, superintendents, principals, coaches, fans and players.
Bandy has lots of memories to share with players, bookkeepers, clock keepers and coaches he runs into.
Bandy was calling a game at Dyess his first year and he got a call in the dressing room at half time.
"My first thought was something was wrong," he said. "Wayne Long asked me if I would be available to call at an upcoming district tournament in Leachville. That was my first district tournament of many." He also officiated at state and invitational tournaments.
In his 25 years of calling games he said he never had to ask anyone to leave the gym.
"I always thought the fans paid their money and they could have their fun," Bandy said. "If I was listening to what was coming out of the stands, I was not paying enough attention to the game. One night my partner did have to ask a fan to tone down some bad language and he did. All in all it was a good 25 years."
Bandy was able to keep his sense of humor through it all.
"You can't take it personally," he said.