Kansas Pregame & Nex-Tech Wireless are joining forces to recognize the individuals behind the scenes who help area school athletic teams achieve success. Administrators, team managers, assistant coaches, officials & more.
On February 14, 2023, at the high school gym in Attica, longtime KSHSAA official Derwin Turner called what would be the last game of his long career. Turner started his career as an official in 1981, before the advent of the three-point line, and spent the last 42 years diligently patrolling courts across the state. The veteran of four decades has called countless state tournaments.
For the last half of his career Turner has worked with Jay Clark, an official with 36 years of experience who remembers well when they were properly introduced.
“I received a call from Derwin in 2003 asking me to join his crew,” Clark said. “I had heard of him, but didn’t really know him. He was already a state (postseason) official, so I knew he was a good official.”
Turner quickly put on display his intensity and expectations surrounding the profession.
“I didn’t know how mean Derwin could look at time,” Clark said. “When you make a call he doesn’t agree with, that look would scare most people and you think, ‘did I mess that call up that bad.’ Over the years we have had several men work with our crew. I would tell them, listen to what he says, just don’t look at him while he says it.”
Turner was a perfectionist throughout his career, no matter the circumstance.
“The losing coach one year wrote to the state on us,” Clark said. “He said even though my team was losing by nearly 30, these guys called the game as if it was a two-point game and I appreciated that. That was just the kind of official Derwin was.”
Despite his demand for quality officiating, Turner is liked and respected by the basketball community - as well as tennis, which he also officiated, and competes in - and will be missed by his colleagued and coaches.
“Derwin and I have learned a lot from each other over the 20 years we have worked together and there has not been one year where he has not gone to state,” Clark said. “Most if not all of those years have been Friday and Saturday. We have grown to be brothers and that is how I see Derwin.”
As far as documenting the history of Kansas high school sports in real time, Macksville’s Tessa Lickiss is a key photographic scribe for the state, taking snaps of sporting and recreational events throughout Stafford County and the surrounding areas.
“Tessa is an outstanding supporter of Macksville,” head basketball coach Jeff Kuckelman said. “She takes tons of pictures of every sport and makes them available on her site for anyone to look at and download.”
Shots taken by Lickiss are used by a number of entities including local and regional media outlets, schools, parents, and athletes and despite being a Mustang supporter, her work features far more than just Macksville athletes.
Her photos can be found at TessLlickisssportsphotos.com, or more particularly for Mustang fans, at MacksvilleMustangsphotos.com, and are completely free of charge. Despite spending a considerable portion of her free time at games, it’s not about making money, but instead, as is stated on her website, “My happy spot is on the sidelines taking in the games or meets through the eye of my lens, capturing the moments the kids will cherish down the road.”
Tessa especially enjoyed taking photos during the state tournament when her son, senior Lance Lickiss, enjoyed two of the best games of his career, leading the Mustangs in scoring in both the semifinal and state championship game wins.
“She gives everyone an excellent way to preserve memories of all our team’s seasons,” Kuckelman added. “It is a great service to our community that she does it and asks for nothing in return!”
Palen Officiating Family
In a time where KSHSAA struggles to find reliable officials, a family from Beloit is a blessing for athletes and coaches alike.
Brothers Rodney and Byron Palen have long graced the sidelines of Kansas sporting events, combining for decades worth of experience, and on top of the volume of games both have officiated, the family also helps off the court, with Rodney serving as NCAA league commissioner.
“Rodney works closely with our league ADs helping fill officiating needs for our varsity sporting events throughout the year,” Minneapolis Athletic Director Ryan Mortimer said. “Whenever we are in a bind and need officiating at any level, he is always quick to help send out emails or texts to try and help us fill officiating openings. He is the kind of person that does a lot behind that scenes that may go unnoticed to the general public. We appreciate him and his family in all they do for our league as well as the surrounding communities they travel to on a weekly basis.”
The third, and newest Palen in the trio is Byron’s son, Brady, who was a standout athlete for St. John’s-Beloit throughout high school, earning a number of awards and accolades including a 2019 state title in the high jump. He is now an All-American high jumper for Wichita State. In February of 2023, the youngest of the three Palens got a chance to officiate his first varsity event, a basketball game at Elyria Christian, and what made it a particularly unique debut is that his two fellow refs were his father and uncle.
“The Palen’s are amazing people,” Mortimer said. “They have officiated here at Minneapolis numerous times throughout my tenure and we always enjoy having them officiate our basketball, football, and baseball events. We know that the officiating will be high quality and fair and they are always professional and good to us.”
About Nex-Tech Wireless
Nex-Tech Wireless, owned by Nex-Tech Inc./Rural Telephone, Golden Belt Telephone and Tri-County Telephone is a premiere wireless provider offering high-tech wireless solutions to residents in over 40 counties of central and western Kansas as well as local coverage to 4 counties in Colorado. Nex-Tech Wireless focuses on providing its customers cutting edge technology including data and mobile services, as well as the latest wireless equipment and competitive wireless plans that provide nationwide coverage. For more information, visit