NBA referee Gediminas Petraitis makes the call to become US citizen, to be naturalized Tuesday

Referee Gediminas Petraitis has made the call. He's becoming an American citizen.

The NBA official from Lithuania will be naturalized Tuesday in Maryland, where his road to the hardwood began when he swapped his Sports Authority uniform for a referee's one.

"The U.S. is a great country and any time you have the ability or the option to, it's something you cannot pass on, I believe," Petraitis said.

Born in 1989 in Kaunas — Lithuania's second-largest city — Petraitis first came to America in 1994. His parents were physicians who had moved to Maryland, and Petraitis and his sister came and visited during summers before returning to Lithuania for school.

He came for good a few years later, graduating from Northwest High School in Germantown, Maryland and later the University of Maryland in 2011. He seemed headed for a career in business, earning dual degrees in accounting and finance and working for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

But basketball is a passion for Lithuanians, and soon it would become a profession.

Petraitis' father, Vidmantas, had begun officiating games in Maryland and encouraged his son, who was working at a Sports Authority to earn some money during school, to do the same.

"Instead of working there, just start refereeing. Exercise, set your own schedule," Petraitis said of his father's message. "And he really pushed me to start and he's been one of my mentors, one of the people that I talk to and really he's the one that got me into it."

Vidmantas Petraitis officiated women's college basketball and eventually switched to the men's side.

"I passed him a little bit," Gediminas Petraitis said.

His parents left the issue of citizenship up to Petraitis. When his green card was first set to expire while he was a student, he chose to renew it rather than seek naturalization.

"At that point I don't think I was mature enough to make a decision and my parents never forced me to one way or the other," Petraitis said.

This time, he decided that being American would be better. So Petraitis, now living in Long Island City, New York, will be in Baltimore on Tuesday to complete the process, accompanied by his parents and sister.

He already had one big accomplishment this year when he made it to the full-time NBA referees roster, having worked last season's NBA Development League Finals.

Now comes another achievement.

"One thing led to another and I ended up in a very good spot," Petraitis said.


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