Column: What's all the fuss about a shot clock?
Over the past month, the MSHSL's boys' and girls' basketball playoffs and state tournaments have been held. Like clockwork, the issue of whether or not there should be a shot clock for high school basketball in Minnesota arose. As always, the calls for a shot clock are prompted around playoff time when schools hold the ball for 45 seconds, a minute or several minutes at a time as a means to keep the score down and hope the other team makes a mistake leading to an open basket. A vast majority of these instances are perpetuated by teams who believe they do not have a chance of winning without doing so. However, the tactic often leaves spectators with a sour taste in their mouth as they watch kids simply dribble out at the top of the key for good chunks of the game.
Currently, there are eight associations that use the shot clock for boys and girls high school basketball; Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, California, North Dakota and South Dakota. There are three main categories of why more states do not use a shot clock: logistics (money, personnel, etc), philosophy (thoughts on whether it belongs in high school basketball) and the role of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). I will leave the logistics and NFHS parts alone, as I do not have reliable numbers, though I will say that I believe there is plenty of room to get creative to overcome the logistical circumstances and NFHS restrictions are weak at best. Instead I will focus on the philosophical objections to the shot clock being implemented in high school. The NFHS website lists several of them on its website and I will address them one-by-one.
The high school game does not need the shot clock. It is in good shape as it is. Fundamentally, this is correct. High school basketball and basketball in general continue to grow in popularity and are doing very well. However, since when is "good enough" the standard by which we live by? No one is saying high school basketball is deficient, but that it can continue to be improved. I'm sure much the same thing was said when dunking was allowed, the three-point line was added and games moved from quarters to halves.
A shot clock takes away strategy from some coaches to slow the ball down to match up to the opponent. Holding the ball is a strategy, but it is also the nuclear option. When a coach uses this strategy, he or she admits that their team is not capable of competing and they have exhausted all other options. Except most of the times they haven't. They go into the game with the plan to stall, rather than try every one of their defenses or adjustments they can. And on top of all that, the stall rarely works as in the end they still need to score more points than the other team.
Education-based basketball does not warrant that student-athletes and coaches play to entertain the public. Once again, in general this point is correct. Education-based sports are to help educate kids. Which is the exact opposite of what holding the ball does. Kids go out for basketball so they can actually play, not to dribble for minutes on end. Show me a player who enjoys stalling. Stalling is a give-up tactic by the coach who essentially robs his players of their ability to play for large chunks of the game. Many people preach winning isn't everything, and if that was true the coaches wouldn't be stalling but instead let their kids play and handle the loss. But we all know that that sentiment is just lip service these days.
A last one I hear in some form or another is that "high school should be different than college and pros, and that it would result in a lack of fundamentals."
First off, if you talk to a proponent of the shot clock, like me, the last point we care about is how different high school basketball is than college or pro (though college and pro certainly do seem to be doing well on their own). As for the fundamentals, I believe the exact opposite would happen. Boys and girls of whatever ages the shot clock would be implemented for, would be forced to execute their offense and defense. Players would be forced to think critically, make quick decisions and not simply pass the ball around waiting for someone to make a mistake. Players would be forced to execute better ball handling, shooting and understand game situations. Say it's a 40-second shot clock, if a team has not been able to get a good look at a good shot in 40 seconds, an extra 20 seconds or a minute is not going to make a difference. At that point the defense should be rewarded with a shot clock violation.
What are your thoughts? Should high school basketball have a shot clock if the logistical problems were figured out?