Time for a change

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With the NBA playoffs underway, basketball is once again on my mind. Post-season play – whatever the level – offers viewers the best the sport has to offer because every team knows their season is on the line.

These high-stakes games can get pretty intense and can come down to last second plays. Those kinds of contests often make me wonder whether or not high school basketball should implement the shot clock.

This has been a subject of much debate over the last several years, and opinions remain divided today. Currently, nine states have adopted it and Illinois is on the verge of becoming the tenth. 

There are several arguments for and against the change, but one of the deterrents may soon be a thing of the past. The National Federation of High School Sports (NFHS) is expected to soon be reversing its previous opposition to the shot clock, and if it does that may open the door to the possibility of more states getting on board.

Up until now, the states that adopted the policy did so against NFHS rules. As such, they forfeited their seat on the Basketball Rules Committee. If the organization sanctions the use of the shot clock this year, that will be one obstacle out of the way. However, there are certainly other factors that must be considered.

For me, the most compelling argument for implementing the clock is the flow of the game. Realistically, there are not a lot of moments in a basketball game where one team actually has possession of the ball for more than 35 seconds. That is really an eternity in the kind of fast-paced sport it has become. 

I watched the Dogies play a lot this season, and even when they were trying to run the clock, it was tough for them to go 35 seconds without putting up a shot. And that goes for most of their opponents as well, so it’s not as though it would be a huge adjustment for teams to play with the possession restriction.

Where the clock would be so beneficial is in close, late-game situations. If there was a 35 second time limit for possession, teams that are trailing will be less likely to have to foul in order to get the ball back.

I don’t know about you, but in those tight games, the last minute can feel like it lasts forever. A shot clock could remedy the situation and keep games moving.

Probably one of the most persuasive of the arguments against a shot clock comes down to money. It is expensive to outfit a gym with the proper equipment, ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on the system and the existing technology already in place. It is also a challenge for some schools to find the appropriate personnel to man the clock. 

As it is, the scorer’s table requires a clock person, one for the books and sometimes an announcer, so to add yet another qualified person to be able to keep up with the shot clock requires training and an extra payout at the end of each contest. 

Monetary concerns are certainly valid. If Wyoming were to adopt the protocol, Newcastle would need to equip three gyms with the necessary technology. Finding six to 15 thousand extra dollars in the budget these days isn’t easy. However, corporate sponsorship of equipment is an avenue to explore.

I still believe that, overall, the benefits outweigh the costs. The spirit of competition will predominantly prevail when teams are forced to battle to the end in close contests. It will make both teams actually play basketball instead of resorting to keep-away in the closing moments of the game. 

By the same token, when there is a great disparity between competing team’s athletic prowess, we have a mercy rule already in place to allow those who struggle to keep from being defeated by an astronomical differential. 

As a fan, I would love to see the shot clock become a reality in high school basketball, and from the sounds of things, I’m thinking it will. The nature of the game has changed, and it’s time for us to keep up with it.

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