Daniel Freitag was on the court for an AAU tournament in the Twin Cities earlier this spring when a parent shouted out at him: "You're a disgrace to the game of basketball."
If you've seen Freitag play you would know he's far from that as a player. The No. 1 hoops prospect from Minnesota in the 2024 class has scholarship offers from major programs in both basketball and football.
But the former Bloomington Jefferson star was wearing black and white stripes that day. He'd been hired to ref middle school games. He did his best but was accused of making some bad calls.
Freitag's experiencing a different side of the game as an official. He thought it would expand his basketball knowledge. But it has also exposed him to an ugly side of how fans can mistreat referees.
"It was kind of a great idea to see what it's like on that side," Freitag said. "It's opened my eyes to what people think are and aren't foul calls. I did get some heat over that weekend. It was kind of crazy."
He's a 17-year-old officiating players not much younger, so Freitag drew heckling because of his age. He's allowed to referee any level below high school, but some parents were even accusing him of "stealing money" by taking that job. They didn't know he had actually been a ref for a few years.
"That's insightful," Howard Pulley AAU program director Rene Pulley said. "That lets you know that this is somebody that is a true student of the game. And he wants to know as much about it from all angles."
Freitag first started by officiating first graders with a friend in Bloomington. He moved his way up to 12U and 13U for the first time this spring. In his time off from Howard Pulley's AAU team earlier this month, he decided to referee at the Battle at the Lakes tournament.
Kids who recognize Freitag as one of the top high school players in the state want to take pictures with him after games. But crowds arguing calls at one game got so disruptive that Freitag's colleague called a technical foul and threatened to throw a fan out of the gym.
"Playing a high level of basketball, I think I have the edge of knowing what a foul is and what is not," Freitag said. "I wasn't trying to make any enemies out there. Just seems like some parents don't mind yelling at the ref that's a kid."
In April, Freitag also got criticized by some basketball fans after announcing he was transferring from Bloomington Jefferson to Southern California Academy in Northridge, Calif., to play hoops for his senior season. He averaged nearly 29 points last season, but the Jaguars finished with a 14-13 record.
"I had taken pride in Jefferson and sticking around as long as I have despite any unsuccessful seasons we had," he said. "[The prep school] has a great track record on guard development. And that's what I'm looking for."
Freitag's ranked as the 71st player in the 2024 class nationally by 247Sports.com. The Gophers are no longer recruiting him after receiving a commitment from Cherry guard Isaac Asuma. But Cal, Notre Dame and Wisconsin are a few basketball programs recruiting Freitag the hardest, he said. His official visit with the Badgers is scheduled for June 14-16.
Freitag will only play basketball at prep school. But he's still leaving the football option open for college. And he's not giving up his whistle anytime soon.
"I'm still open to playing football," Freitag said. "Some programs have kind of turned up the heat while I'm still here in Minnesota before I get out there [to California]. Others have said, it's been cool recruiting you, but we think you're a basketball guy."