High school shot clock: Is it time?

ANTI-STALL BALL:  Venerable Huntington boys basketball coach Mack Jones is among local coaches who hope the LHSAA will implement a shot clock soon. (Photo by JOHN PENROD, Journal Sports)


Perhaps no other sport has gone through the evolutionary process quite like basketball. Many years ago, you couldn’t dunk in college or high school. The lane has been widened on a number of occasions. The implementation of the 3-point shot was revolutionary in ways that many did not expect.

Those changes subsequently brought about changes at other levels of the sport. It took about a decade, but college basketball soon followed the NBA with its version of the 3-point line. It didn’t take long for high school to do the same.

But go to a high school basketball game and there’s one thing you won’t see that is present at every other level – a shot clock.

“I think we need to implement it soon,” Huntington boys basketball coach Mack Jones says. “But I don’t know when it will happen.”

Jones isn’t alone in being pro-shot clock. Local coaches would be in favor of it, but it would come at a price. Literally.

“Even though the other night we stalled a little bit against Parkway, I would definitely love to see it,” says Benton girls coach Mary Ward, now in her 20th year as a head coach. “I think it would speed the pace of the game up and be more strategic. But the logistics of it all would be so tough for high school athletics.”

Different high school programs operate in different ways, but the added expense would be tough to take on. It can already be tough to get by with paying three referees, two security guards and other costs before the ball even gets tipped off.

You’d basically have to add a fourth official to that expense because operating a shot clock isn’t as simple as just hitting the reset button. And if you think that would be a tough cost for a Class 5A school to absorb, think about what it would mean for Class B and C schools.

“It’s hard enough to find someone to run the clock and keep the (score) book,” Ward says. “Getting someone to do the shot clock would be even tougher.”

On several occasions, the LHSAA membership has considered adopting the shot clock, but it has never gone much further than just an idea. A statewide shortage of officials is also a contributing factor.

“It would cost a little bit, but I think it would be worth it,” Jones says. “It just makes the game faster and more exciting. Plus you are preparing the kids for next-level basketball.”

In 1979, North Carolina held the ball for almost the entire first half against Duke (the Tar Heels didn’t take a shot for the first 12 minutes) and trailed 7-0 at halftime.

Loyola boys basketball coach Ben Schonfarber thinks there might be teams with an advantage if there were a shot clock, but you wouldn’t see an all-out stall.

“I think it would be beneficial overall, but I think it would be more beneficial to the better teams,” says Schonfarber, who is in his seventh year. “But if it’s a 30- or 35-second shot clock, I don’t know how much that speeds the game up because most teams don’t really sit on the ball these days.”

The shot clock is actually already used in some locations in the country and in AAU play. But that’s not the only reason Jones would like to see it. “I just think we need to try to make it as close to what it is in college as possible,” he says.

Jones is in his 33rd year as a head coach and has seen the game evolve during that time. He says the threat of a team taking the air out of the ball isn’t as likely. “When I first got into it, more coaches were running the four-corner (offense) because they had only one kid who could handle the ball,” he says. “With AAU ball now, all of them can handle it so you probably don’t see that as much anymore.”

Finances aside, coaches believe the biggest difference if a shot clock were in place would come in the last two minutes, not the first 30.

“When you get under two minutes, you need to have conversations with the players about when we want to shoot,” Schonfarber says. “Do we want to bleed the clock or do we want to take an open shot if we get it?”

“Strategies would come down to trying to use the shot clock to your advantage,” Jones says. “Say you are down by five with two minutes left. With a shot clock, you’d still have a good chance by just playing good defense.” 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com