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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)
EVANSVILLE — The conversation comes up almost every season like, well ... clockwork.A high school basketball team will hold the ball just past midcourt at the end of a quarter and wait for the clock to tick down. If it goes on too long or happens too frequently, the opposing crowd gets impatient. The words "stall ball" will get yelled and tweeted into oblivion.Everyone who argues against the tactic, which has gone by many names over the years, always has the same fix: add a shot clock to the high school game.
The topic recently came about in Illinois when the associate executive director of the Illinois High School Association Kurt Gibson said it could be among a set of rule changes later this month.
"If I was a betting guy, I would expect the shot clock to come out of that (rules) committee," Gibson said to the Belleville News-Democrat.
Indiana high school basketball, which can have a religious following in this hoops-crazed state, does not currently employ a shot clock.
That got us at the Courier & Press thinking. Is it time for Indiana to add a shot clock to the game? Or are the logistics too much of a headache?
The answer depends on who you ask.
If there was ever a case for implementing a shot clock, the Memorial-Gibson Southern Class 3A girls' sectional championship game in 2011 would be Exhibit A..
Through several portions of the game, Gibson Southern was content to play catch near the half-court line, not even trying to make a move toward the basket. Possessing a lead, the Tigers sat back in a zone defense instead of chasing the Titans around. Memorial prevailed, 21-9.
"It kind of shocked us," said Memorial coach Bruce Dockery. "We knew they would slow it down and we had been practicing that all week. We made sure we got the opening tip (and took an early lead). We just sat back in our zone and let them play catch. It was ugly.
"I told their coach (Mark Monroe) after the game that I hated it, but I admired them for sticking to the game plan, doing what they thought they needed to do to have a chance to win."
Whenever a similar situation arises, the calls for a shot clock spring forward. Two years ago, Jackie Young and Princeton were forced to play against stalling tams in the sectional. It allowed Southridge to upset the Tigers in the semifinal, 34-33.
Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, California, North Dakota and South Dakota currently use a shot clock in high school basketball with Wisconsin on the way. Some in Indiana want the state to join the crowd.
One of those groups seem to be the players. While it is true that not all of them will play beyond high school, a good portion of them are looking to make the leap. What better way to prepare them than a standard version of the sport?
"I think bringing a shot clock to the high school level would be a great thing," said Castle junior guard Alex Hemenway. "Not only (for) improving the flow of the game but also to help prepare the players who look to play collegiate ball somewhere after high school. I feel this is a change that is needed and hope to see it implemented in the future."
The college game uses a 30-second shot clock, while the National Basketball Association and the International Basketball Federation use a 24-second clock. Proponents of bringing it to the high school level are not advocating for that much of a change. But 35 (or even 40) seconds would be a starting point.
Basketball is a different now than it was 20 years ago. The players are bigger, faster and stronger. Introducing a shot clock would not only expand the game but make it better, proponents say.
"A complete necessity," said Bosse coach Shane Burkhart. "They say it's basketball in 49 states but this is Indiana. If that is the case, why are we so slow on the draw with this concept? The game has become a different style and we have to adapt to what it is if we are really going to say it is about teaching the kids the game of basketball the right way."
Former North coach and current Harrison athletic director Andre Thomas said sports and education are about bettering oneself. He said players should embrace the game and learn to make decisions quickly. In addition, it would make the game less of a parade to the free throw line in the waning moments, Thomas said.
Thomas rationalized that if a football team is forced to run a play in a certain number of seconds, why shouldn't a basketball team be forced to take a shot in a certain number of seconds?
"A shot clock would help educate basketball players," said Thomas. "If (the rules) allow you 10 seconds to get it across the halfcourt line, you have 25 seconds to make an attempt to score the basketball. Not many teams need more than 20 to 25 seconds to take a shot."
Proponents also argue that it would lead to better, more innovative coaching. That stems again from the fact that basketball is played differently. Yes, you can still be successful running a system that relies on grinding out the clock and making defenses work harder. Take a look at Virginia and coach Tony Bennett's approach to the game.
But coaches are getting younger and bringing different ideas that match the style being played today. Why not bring the rules up to speed as well?
"It is going to make us as coaches grow," said Burkhart. "That shot clock allows you to be different. It doesn't always put you in a situation that is negative. I would welcome it with open arms. It would be such a great challenge and an opportunity as a coach to really step up my game. There are so many different avenues and I think the kids' interest would really peak."
Kevin Oxley has been the head coach at Tecumseh for nearly three decades.
The man has seen the game evolve multiple times and coached through the addition of class basketball. In fact, the Braves were among the schools that benefited from a change in the status quo involving the state tournament. Tecumseh's run to the Class 1A title in 1999 is still pointed to as a reason for it.
But when it comes to the possibility of a shot clock at the high school level, Oxley is unwavering in his belief.
"I don't think it is a good thing," said Oxley. "If you are putting 30 seconds on the clock, all you are doing is speeding it up and it is for entertainment purposes. I'm not sure that is what high school athletics is about or should be about."
Scoring was down across the state this past season in boys' basketball. Teams averaged a combined 111.4 points per game, the lowest total since 2011. Adding a shot clock would theoretically add more possessions and increase scoring.
But to be fair, teams that hold the ball on their hip at half court are few and very far in between. The days of "Butcher Ball," named for former Loogootee High School Coach Jack Butcher, are nearly non-existent. And when a team does slow it down, it is usually trying to gain an advantage against a superior team.
That was Matt Lynch's thought when he came to Tell City from New Albany. He didn't have the athletes to run up and down the floor and be successful. The second-year coach sees both the good and bad with the addition of a shot clock.
"I just felt like for our group to win it was to play a slower, defensive pace," said Lynch, who guided the Marksmen to a 16-9 record last year. "The less athletic you are, the more the shot clock will affect you. A lot more teams would do more full-court pressure to make it longer to get up and down the court. It would definitely affect smaller schools and teams that like to play slower."
Another argument against adding shot clock: The cost. One athletic director in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference estimated it would cost each school a couple thousand dollar — maybe more — if current control panels were not compatible. Then you get into extra expenses to train someone to run it.
For a cash-strapped state like Illinois, that is a major concern. As a basketball coach, Mount Carmel's Tyler Buss is in favor of a shot clock. He thinks it would lead to a better brand of basketball. As an athletic director, he sees financial challenges for Mount Carmel and other relatively small schools.
"In our state, where many schools are in a major budget crunch, you are now adding another $2,000 to $4,000 cost in addition to finding someone to operate these clocks during games," Buss said. "I would think a lot of small schools may have trouble not only purchasing clocks but logistically being able to install and use them in older facilities. It will definitely be interesting to watch as this unfolds."
The other piece of the puzzle to consider would be the girls' game. If you were to install the shot clock for boys basketball, would logic dictate that their counterparts would use them, too?
Not all players on the boys' side would can play within a system that could excel with a shot clock. However, the difference between the top teams in girls' basketball and the rest might be more pronounced with the addition.
It would certainly create a few challenges. Intriguing for sure but also challenging from a coaching aspect.
"Girls at times have a hard time creating their own shot," said North coach Tyler Choate, who is in favor of a change. "As a girls' coach, that would be the most challenging. We are in a rebuilding process losing Fred (Adams) and Anna (Newman). If I was to project forward and the shot clock was running down and we needed someone to take a shot, it would be an ugly shot at times. We as a coaching staff would have to run some plays early into the shot clock that would hopefully get a decent shot."
All of this is pure speculation on either side. The one entity that would have any power to change the status quo, the National Federation of State High School Associations, leaves the choice up to the individual states. For now.
Indiana High School Athletic Association commissioner Bobby Cox said it will adhere to the rules provided for by the NFHS. If a shot clock is mandated, the IHSAA will follow suit.
Personally, Cox is not in favor of a shot clock.
"One of the guiding principles of the rules committees when proposing rules changes is to strike a balance between offense and defense when that is applicable," he said. "My personal opinion is that a shot clock in high school basketball creates an advantage to schools with more talented offensive players while giving relief to schools that struggle to defend."
Cox is not concerned with the argument that a low-scoring game is considered "boring."
"If you are a student of the game, you will appreciate a team that plays great defense and controls possessions to their favor," Cox said.
Coaches do believe that one day a change will happen. Whether that is in a few years or further down the road, they are unsure. There are things that the IHSAA likes to be ahead of the game on but it appears that it would take a mandate from the NFHS to make it happen.
"Just as a spectator, I would like to see the great pace of play they had going for the first seven minutes of the quarter to continue in the last minute," said Choate. "With the interest that people have had over this year (in a change), I think it is coming. I don't know how quick it will. If I was speculating, I would say it is coming sooner rather than later."
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