Newsletter #171

October 16, 2019


Today's Quote:  "The clock is your enemy" - Al McGuire, when having the lead late in the game, all you need to do is run out the clock.

Today's Theme... Shot Clock in High School Basketball - Yes/No?

A controversial subject...  I'll discuss the background, pros and cons.

Why have a shot clock?  The main reason is to prevent teams from stalling, holding the ball for long periods of time to slow the pace of play and reduce the number of possessions. There are many examples of teams stalling the entire game, even in the first half, and even in state championship games.

Also, it's common for two teams to play hard and fast the entire game, but the winning team stalling out the last 4 or 5 minutes, resulting in fouling to stop the clock and many late game free throws.  This type of basketball is not popular with many fans, resulting in fans yelling "play the game!" or "shoot the ball" or actual booing.

So why do some coaches use stalling? - because they can... it's within the rules and may help their team win.

The shot clock first came into the NBA in 1954, the 24-second clock. Putting in the shot clock improved fan enjoyment, interest and attendance.

Women's college basketball put in the shot clock in the 1970-71 season, as did men's college basketball (1985-86 a 45 second clock, changed to 35 seconds in 1993-94, and 30 seconds in 2015).

NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) Rulings  - The NFHS has always ruled against the shot clock... but the vote for approval is getting closer. If your state high school association votes in favor of the shot clock, it will be in violation of the NFHS rules. As a consequence, your state's association will not be permitted to serve on the national rules committee.

Regardless, eight states have approved using the shot clock - Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Rhode Island, North and South Dakota, Washington and California.

Arguments Opposing the Shot Clock:

Cost - Initial costs are somewhere between $2000 and $5000 for a shot clock to be mounted near the scoreboard or above the backboards, or as part of the main scoreboard itself.

Shot Clock Operator - Will this be another paid position, a volunteer, or an additional official? And what about junior varsity and freshmen games... more strain on resources to have clock operators for all these games.

Some training will be required. See "Duties of Shot Clock Operator".

It's not College or Pro Basketball - high school basketball is unique from college and pro basketball. Since only a very small percentage of high school players go on to play in college, the pressure to make it more like the college game is not valid. 

Fans - whether fans like it or not is not relevant to the discussion... it's for the players.

Coaching Strategy - a shot clock takes away from coaching strategy. Slowing the game down helps teams with less talent pull off the upset win... so fewer upsets with a shot clock. Having a shot clock hurts the underdog, and scores could be more lop-sided (need for a "mercy" rule?). Also, with a shot clock, more teams will play zone defense.

Fundamentals - when forced to play fast there will be an erosion of player fundamentals, more turnovers and rushed, bad shots.

Arguments for Using the Shot Clock:

Stalling - The shot clock will prevent stalling and the game will be more exciting.

Fans - will enjoy it more and attendance will increase, which will help negate the costs.

Costs - There are additional costs, especially at first, but increased fan attendance and clock sponsors will help. And if small schools in North and South Dakota can do it, why can't everyone?

Player Development - Players that learn to play uptempo will become better overall players and will be more ready for the college game.

It's for the Players - Many coaches point out that the majority of the players themselves would prefer to play uptempo with a shot clock.

Regarding More Zone Defenses - probably more teams WILL play zone defense. But teams that can play good defense for 35 seconds will be rewarded.


One study suggested that the argument is somewhat generational. Many older coaches oppose the shot clock rule, as they have coached that way for years. Many younger coaches have grown up and played the game with the shot clock rule and are in favor of it. So if this is really true, it might just be a matter of time that the rule will be instituted.

How Long to Make the Shot Clock

30 seconds, 35 seconds, 45 seconds? The states that currently use the shot clock are at 30 or 35 seconds.

Alternatives to the Shot Clock?

To prevent stalling, is there anything else that could be done? Some have advocated using the shot clock rule just in the last four minutes of the game... but the initial costs of having a shot clock and an operator are still there.

Should we somehow empower officials to prevent stalling??? If an official sees a team stalling, could the official circle his arm around signaling that the offense must begin to play, and failure to do so would result in a turnover? We already have a 5-second closely-guarded rule, but it's seldom called. Could we enforce or perhaps modify that rule?

The shot clock rule is a controversy.  I hope I got you thinking about how you stand on it!

  See: Shot Clock in High School Basketball - Yes or No?


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