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Shot clock or no shot clock? That’s the ongoing question

Apr 04, 2018 05:12PM ● Published by Catherine Garrett

Cottonwood High basketball coach Lance Gummersall walks the sideline underneath the scoreboard. Is it time for Utah to institute a shot clock in high school basketball? (Travis Barton/City Journals)

The high school basketball seasons may have ended, but the discussion about whether or not to have a shot clock (a timer designed to increase the game’s pace and scoring) continues.

Eight states – California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington – have employed the use of a 30- or 35-second shot clock while other states are moving towards the idea, including Wisconsin, which is slated to have a shot clock for the 2019-2020 season.

Many coaches around Utah seem to be in favor of the shot clock, according to Joe Ogelsby, Utah High School Activities Association assistant director and director of Basketball Operations. One of those coaches is Corner Canyon High girls basketball coach Jeramy Acker who said, “We not only need it, we as coaches are wanting it. Every level of basketball has a shot clock. We are really doing a serious disservice to the student-athlete and really inhibiting the game by not having a shot clock.”

Acker points out that there are more 20-point scorers in the state than ever before, indicative to him of the “different style of basketball that they are wanting.” 

“The game is about playing with pace and tempo which typically has you scoring within 15 to 20 seconds,” he said. “It seems that the teams that struggle offensively employ the stall tactics and try to control possessions.” 

The coach of the 5A Chargers program in Draper said he was “bitten by stalling” earlier in his coaching career. “What I’ve found since is that wins and losses comes and go, but what is more important to me is, ‘Am I helping my player to develop to the next level?’ Stalling doesn’t help me do that,” he said.

Bryce Valley boys basketball coach Gary Syrett said that speaking for his 1A program, “We would like it,” he said. “It’s a fun type of basketball. Even though stalling can be effective at times – and we’ve taken some minutes off the clock at times – I still like basketball to be played up and down and most of the kids do too.” 

Syrett said his staff and school administrators have discussed the shot clock and recognize the cost, but are still in favor of moving that way.

Bruce Bean, principal of 3A Carbon High in Price who was a basketball coach for 13 years, also said he would welcome a shot clock. 

“In my coaching style, we better get a good shot off before we turn the ball over. That lends itself to needing to move the ball quickly towards the basket,” he said. “If we are supposed to prepare our kids for the next level, they need to be familiar with what’s going on. I don’t think it’s going to bother the game.”

“Change is inevitable,” Bean said. “I’m old enough to remember when the three-point line came in and we had to adjust to that. I remember when we went from two officials to three and at first everyone was asking, ‘Why do we need this?’ and now it seems like no one is arguing that point anymore.”

Tom Sherwood, Brighton High’s principal, feels a shot clock would positively impact the game in the state. “We’ve discussed it several times and as basketball evolves, it’s worth revisiting the issue,” he said. 

When Brighton’s 5A boys basketball team played in the Under Armour Holiday Classic in California over the Christmas break this past season, they used a shot clock and defeated nationally-ranked teams from Torrey Pines (California) and Oak Christian (California).

“The shot clock was good for us in the tournament and I think we thrived with it,” Sherwood said. “I think it encourages kids to be more aggressive offensively and be less hesitant to take open shots when you’re on a clock.”

Former NBA coach Barry Hecker called the shot clock a “double-edged sword,” saying that it hurts struggling or average teams while it favors better teams. He said that while he was coaching at Westminster, his squad, who was picked to finish last in the conference, ran “four corners” to spread the ball around offensively and found themselves at the top of the division much of the season. “If we would have had a shot clock, we would have got our butts spanked,” he said. 

Hecker also noted that a shot clock would appeal to spectators and would get those on the court ready for the use of the shot clock in college.

So, where does the UHSAA sit on the issue of bringing a shot clock to the state?

Oglesby from UHSAA said the shot clock topic has been brought up over the years and their organization has given – and continues to give – the subject extensive time, research, thought and discussion. 

“Our organization is completely membership-driven which drives a rules process and feasibility of things while being risk adverse,” Oglesby said. “We have to do not just what is in the best interest of segments of student-athletes; we have to safeguard to ensure that decisions made are done with the best interest for everyone. We have to be concerned with equity.”

Oglesby said that the UHSAA is “not negligent with knowing” about how coaches and administrators feel about the shot clock issue, but that there are “fundamental issues that we need to answer,” that have received the support of many coaches around the state, while not being able to “get a lot of support from athletic directors and principals,” according to Oglesby. 

The two main points, he said, are financing the acquisition and maintenance of shot clocks and staffing the running of the shot clocks during games. Estimations on shot clocks vary depending on the type of scoreboards schools already can range in the thousands of dollars. A shot clock operator is simply “one more position to pay for,” said Oglesby.

“Several larger classifications want to just do it,” he said. “Things are always moving and we are not wanting to make any quick changes. It’s going to take a long time to get through the process.”

The National Federation of State High School Associations does not allow for the use of a shot clock, so the states that do have them are not allowed representation on the Rules Committee within the organization. In an article, “Shot Clock in High School Basketball – the Debate Continues” by Mike Dyer from Feb. 5, 2015, the NFHS Director of Sports and Officials Education Theresia Wynns said that the NFHS stance on the shot clock is that

the high school game does not need the shot clock. It is in good shape as it is. Their summary:

1) A shot clock takes away strategy from some coaches to slow the ball down to match up to the opponent.

2) Some committee members are opposed to “state adoption” because everyone should be playing the same game.

3) Education-based basketball does not warrant that student-athletes and coaches play to entertain the public.

Carbon High’s Bean said that there are valid points of financing that he would have to consider being a school from a rural area and he understands the equity part of the shot clock discussion. 

Brighton High’s Sherwood also said he can see both sides of the shot clock issue and the costs associated with a change, but he suggested a pilot program within the 5A or 6A ranks to see the results. 

“The girls may not be ready for the shot clock, but the boys might be,” he said. “Who knows who’s ready if we don’t try it?”

And so, the discussion continues…

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