Friday, June 23, 2017

An Unwelcome Addition

The WIAA Board of Control has decided to add a shot clock to high school basketball in Wisconsin starting in 2019.  As an official, a broadcaster and a fan of high school hoops, I am vehemently opposed to this measure.

From the standpoint of an official, this is one more thing that can lead to errors and controversy in a game.  Timing issues are the biggest headache that we deal with in high school games right now.  Scoring table personnel failing to start the clock properly or not stopping it quickly enough is common.  Now another timer will be added to the table to run the shot clock--and that person will have to make dozens of split-second decisions every game, determining if a shot struck the rim and resetting the clock.  And, that is more buzzer-beaters that those of us on the floor need call.  Remember, we don't have the advantage of instant replay like college hoops or the NBA to review if a shot was off a shooter's fingertips as the shot clock expired or if a ball may have just nicked the rim to cause a reset.

From the standpoint of a broadcaster, the shot clock negates the opportunity for a team with lesser talent to limit possessions in a game.  That means fewer competitive contests and not as many upsets.  Plus, delays to determine if the shot clock was reset properly--or malfunctions of the shot clock--make for a very choppy broadcast.

And finally as a fan, I don't see the need for a shot clock at the high school level.  Stalling is not that big a problem anymore.  And if a team decides to hold the ball, then its opponent should come out and defend them in the entire half-court.  There is a five-second closely-guarded rule, make the other team run some semblance of an offense--or don't complain about a stall.  Add to that the increase in the number of rushed shots just to beat a made up deadline and you get even less offensive efficiency in a game where "work the ball until you get a good shot" has been replaced with "take the first open three you can get".

One other element to consider is that this adds more expense to the operation of high school sports.  Football has a play clock, but schools are not required to have it displayed on the field.  The Back Judge keeps the time, and uses arm motions to alert the offense when it has five seconds left to snap the ball.  In basketball, the shot clock will have in sight of the players.  That means the purchase of two more electronic displays and a system to run them.  Plus, not all basket supports are standardized in high school--meaning those clocks may not all fit above the backboard.  Do they go on the wall?  On the floor behind the end line?  Next to the main scoreboards?

Adding a shot clock to high school basketball is a solution in search of a problem--and it creates more problems than it could ever hope to fix.

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