Daniel Helo (left), Nick Conway (center) and Robert Gant (right) stand in Rupp Arena at Big Blue Madness.

An Ashland native’s dreams came true when he was asked to officiate at Big Blue Madness.

Daniel Helo grew up watching University of Kentucky basketball and was a fan throughout his childhood. He had dreamed of being on the floor at Rupp Arena, and last Friday night his dream became reality. Helo was asked to officiate the Big Blue Madness scrimmage game by his friend Bart Lenox, who is an SEC basketball official.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to do it,” said Helo. “Not a lot of people get that opportunity and every official wants to make it to Rupp to do Big Blue Madness or the (KHSAA) Sweet Sixteen.

“I still get to say I made it to Rupp Arena.”

Helo graduated from Boyd County High School in 2004 before going on to Morehead State University. He graduated in 2009 with a degree in exercise science. Currently, Helo is a teacher at Tates Creek Middle School. He’s an official in the evenings.

“It was just surreal,” said Helo. “I don’t think I’ve ever smiled that much while officiating.”

Helo said that officiating is his second job. He said it feels good to have his dad, Paul Helo, and his wife, Lindsay Helo, supporting him every step of the way. He currently officiates high school basketball games and has started to get into small college games.

Helo broke into the officiating world because of his dad. His dad is a former 16th Region official, and he convinced Helo to get into it while going to school. He was able to “stay on the floor” and make some extra money throughout college.

He took a short break from officiating from 2011-14 when he moved to Columbus.

Helo said he had a lot of mixed emotions going into the night.

“Nervous, anxious, excited and overall happy,” he said. “The support I’ve received from my wife and my dad, it was a validation of that support.”

The game featured two eight-minute halves. Before the game started, the team was introduced to a sold-out crowd.

He said officiating at Big Blue Madness was much different than anything he had officiated before.

“There is about a 20,000-people difference,” he said. “The excitement was different. It was very different to run up and down the floor and have to chase them. Normally I can run a little ahead of the players, but with this one I (couldn’t).

“Growing up in Kentucky, every kid wants to play on the Rupp floor,” he said. “It was crazy to say I got to do Big Blue Madness. It’s just crazy.”

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