State ought to utilize shot clock

Posted Jan. 26, 2009, at 10:18 p.m.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the idea of timed possessions in the game of high school basketball.

What, you’re asking?

Yes a shot clock, and here’s why.

Although I made a living off pulling the ball out front when I was a coach, you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that I instructed my teams to hold the basketball without attempting to score.

In professional basketball in its early stages, stalling or dribbling out the clock at the end of the game became a common thing. Fans were paying good money to attend the game, and spectators grew tired of a dribble show when they had paid to see a real game.

Finally, in 1954, the NBA instituted a 24-second shot clock, the time allowed for each possession with the ball in a team’s end.

Did college hoops dodge timed possessions? No. Sorry. Thanks to head coach Dean Smith of North Carolina and his famous four-corner offense, college coaches and players had to score or attempt to score in a 35-second period, or they lost the ball. This all began in 1985.

Rules makers originally tried a 45-second shot clock but soon found that 35 seconds was the key variable for men. Ladies soon followed with a 30-second shot clock.

At the high school level of play, several states, including California, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, and Maryland, have experimented with and are using shot clocks. Research indicates that those timed possessions are 35 seconds for boys and 30 seconds for girls. But to date, the majority of high schools play their 32-minute games without timed restrictions.

Within the confines of 32 minutes, teams can run up and down the floor, run any particular offense they choose, or hold the basketball at their end of the floor for as long as they want to without attempting to score.

Case in point: a recent John Bapst at Presque Isle girls’ varsity basketball game saw both talented squads holding onto the ball, trying all the while to get their opponent out of their zone defense into a single-coverage or man-to-man look.

For most of the contest, that stall-ball strategy didn’t work, much to the chagrin of the crowd, which sat patiently, waiting for more action.

I’ve got a message for coaches who employ such a technique in their thinking: always have a pattern in the half-court that places your people in a set that attempts to score.

Through the years when my own teams have utilized this type of system, we always tried to score behind the defense.

Other times, coaches try to shorten a game by taking time off the clock when a key player is in foul trouble. That’s fine because it falls within the confines of the rules as they are written.

If I had any control over the rules in 2008-2009, I’d call for timed possessions, and here’s why. Most coaches who hold the ball have not taught their teams to look for baskets in those settings.

The result? Boredom.

I would list myself now as a strong advocate for a 35-second shot clock for boys and a 30-second shot clock for girls high school play.

Granted, schools would add the expense of purchasing a set of clocks and an additional expense of another timer.

It’s time for a change in Maine with timed possessions.

30-Second Time Out

Maine Basketball Commissioner Peter Webb writes to tell us that during the week of Jan. 26-31, officials will wear pink whistles for “Blow the Whistle on Cancer,” an annual campaign, showing the referees’ support of helping to find a cure.

Officials will donate part of their fees to support the project, and they’re urging all of us to help support the many worthy cancer-related charities of the American Cancer Society.

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