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To Shot Clock or Not To Shot Clock: That is the question

By Jason Alexander

A non scientific twitter poll was recently conducted and the question was a simple question. Should there be a shot clock implemented in Kentucky High School basketball? Yes or no. After 361 votes 72% of the voters chose Yes while 28% said No. Maybe the time has come for someone to submit a proposal to the KHSAA and see if a shot clock is in the future for Kentucky High School basketball.

Clearly there is a desire for use of a shot clock amongst fans, players and coaches as all three factions participated in the poll. There are multiple pros and cons that must be thoroughly addressed if the shot clock is going to become a reality in Kentucky. There are currently 8 states who have implemented the shot clock statewide: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington. Arkansas has done some experimentation with it but they haven’t officially implemented it statewide.  In Virginia some private schools have began using it and their Prep League will begin using one in the 2019-20 season. Wisconsin approved it but then they rescinded it when costs to implement it became a bigger burden than anticipated. Implementing the shot clock may sound and look easy but there is so much more involved than improving gameplay.

Anyone who has been following high school basketball throughout the state of Kentucky and not just in their own city, town, county or region should know that a shot clock isn’t something that is needed. I’ll say it again for the people in the back. A shot clock is not needed in high school basketball in any state in the United States of America. There’s nothing wrong with the game of basketball at the high school level. It’s high school. Not college. Not professional. High school. According to the NCAA about 3% of all boys in the United States will play college basketball and 4% of all girls will play college basketball. Adding a shot clock for the purpose of “preparing high school basketball players for college” doesn’t work as a legitimate reason to add a shot clock when 96% of the kids in high school will never play college basketball.

“Too many teams play slow. The shot clock will make them have to pick up the pace.” Part of the joy of high school basketball is watching two coaches play chess with these high school athletes on the court. I hear people complaining about the pace of the game and in reality the complaints aren’t about the pace it’s about the strategy of the game. People seem to want to try to make the game easier and faster instead of truly studying an opponent and exploiting their weaknesses. Some teams have deliberate offenses and won’t take a shot until they get a good look. I don’t understand how this is a bad thing that should be tossed to the side. It’s weird seeing people being disgusted with smart basketball. As a whole we can’t complain about college and NBA being bad basketball when adding a shot clock to high school basketball is just going to spawn more bad basketball.  With 10 seconds left on the shot clock expect to see an increased amount of isolation plays and one-on-one basketball.  

A team that is disciplined on offense is also likely disciplined on defense as well. Adding a shot clock could possibly make those deliberate teams that “slow it down” much stronger teams. I can think of multiple high school programs whose identity is always about their defense. What is going to happen when a shot clock is added and they are still winning games 65-30 because now you have less time to crack their defense? What will be the complaint then? 

Also, would the 5 second rule need to be discarded with the use of a shot clock?  I think it is one of the more difficult rules to enforce and I don’t think enough teams utilize the type of defense needed to make the 5 second call a weapon but with the addition of the shot clock is the 5 second rule overkill?  There is no 5 second rule in college or the NBA so if high school chooses to add the shot clock what should happen to the 5 second rule? 

Another issue concerning the addition of shot clocks is the logistics around adding the shot clock.  Depending on the brand of shot clock that each particular school would purchase the cost of shot clocks could range from $500 per shot clock to upwards of $2,000 per shot clock.  After they are purchased, a clock operator to run the shot clock will have to be added to the scorer’s table and finding one clock operator can be a chore sometimes.  Now you’ll have to find two clock operators and make sure that the one who runs the shot clock is properly trained to handle these new sets of duties.  I imagine that the many fans who want a shot clock added to the game will gladly volunteer their services to make sure that these shot clocks are ran correctly. 

Also with newly trained shot clock operators there will have to be newly trained referees.  While there are many referees who officiate both high school and college basketball games there are also many referees who only officiate high school games.  These referees will have to be trained to make sure the shot clock is ran the way it is supposed to be ran so the integrity of the game remains intact.  Everybody always seems to love the jobs that the referees are doing.  Giving them more responsibilities won’t bother anyone at all.  I’m sure that won’t be an issue at all. 

I will say this though, I expect some kind of proposal or inquiry to implement shot clocks to happen at some point in the near future.  It can definitely be done if the right proposal is put together and if people work together and with the KHSAA to make it happen.  A smooth transition would go a long ways towards making it a reality that lasts forever.  A question I have is does the use of a shot clock have to approved by the KHSAA?  There are many tournaments throughout the season that aren’t sponsored by the KHSAA.  Can a school host a tournament and use shot clocks in the tournament as an experiment or a trial?  Is that something that is possible?  If so, I’d love to see a school attempt to try it.  Showing that it can be done properly is the kind of proof in the pudding needed to give a proposal some legs to stand on. 

Adding the shot clock could also widen the gap between the haves and have nots.  The bigger schools that have the deepest pools of athletes to choose from will get more separation from the rest of the pack.  They ahave more money, volunteers and the ability to make a seamless transition to shot clock basketball.  As a result they will get better than everyone else at a much quicker pace and that will allow us to move on the elephant in the room of Kentucky High School basketball: classification. 

My position on adding a shot clock is clear at this point but I do want to say that if or when it becomes a reality I will not be disappointed at all.  Change doesn’t really bother me, I just have yet to hear a compelling argument for adding a shot clock.  A couple of slow paced games just don’t bother me enough to want to add a shot clock but I understand why so many people seem to be for it.  It’ll change the high school game and could potentially make some stale matchups a whole lot better.  We’ll just have to wait and see if it has its desired effects.  Color me skeptical. 

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