ERNIE CLARK

A shot clock isn’t necessary for Maine high school basketball

Posted March 15, 2012, at 1:53 p.m.

Each year, it seems, slowdown tactics employed by coaches during a tournament game or two spur renewed conversation about adding a shot clock to high school basketball in Maine.

While the National Federation of State High School Associations has voted against a national rule to institute a shot clock as recently as 2011, six states — California, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington — have followed the lead of the professional and college ranks and added the device for both boys and girls basketball, while Massachusetts and Maryland have a shot clock for girls basketball.

The move is designed to pick up the pace and scoring within the game and perhaps with it increase attendance, which according to the NFHS has been dropping nationwide for high school basketball in recent years.

One primary concern put forward against adding shot clocks at the high school level is economic: the clocks themselves cost in excess of $2,000, plus the additional cost of hiring a shot clock operator for 18 regular-season boys and girls home games each year just at the varsity level, not to mention subvarsity contests.

The thought here is that a shot clock isn’t necessary in Maine — figuring out a way to improve shooting accuracy should be the bigger emphasis.

I’ve come across few instances in recent years when a shot clock violation might occur more than once or twice in any game.

But what’s bogging the game down is that players increasingly are struggling to make shots either from the field or from the free-throw line.

While many coaches would suggest that 70 percent is a reasonable hope for players shooting from the free-throw line, I would estimate the true average in games these days is much closer to 55 percent for most teams.

And from personal observation, teams generally are fortunate to shoot 40 percent from the field in a given game, with the rate from beyond the 3-point arc much lower while those long-range shots account for between 25 and 33 percent of all attempts.

I can’t tell you how many 3-for-14 nights from beyond the arc I’ve charted for teams during the last few seasons.

The reason for the decreasing shooting rates are varied, among them the increased coaching emphasis on defense, the lack of players just going out and working on their shooting skills individually outside of game or scrimmage situations and the 3-point arc itself that has diminished the higher-percentage midrange game.

A shot clock might address the occasional delay tactics, but it won’t by itself increase scoring and with it the related entertainment value of the sport.

Instead it’s likely to rush players into taking lower-percentage shots even sooner than they do now.

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