Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why Vermont high school basketball needs a shot clock

We have heard the arguments over the last few years as to if high school basketball in Vermont is in need of a shot clock. Some say the need is there to speed up the pace of the game and prepare kids for the next level. Those who are opposed say a shot clock will ruin the game and diminish the emphasis needed on fundamentals. After covering Tuesday night’s Rice/Essex game for the Vermont Guardian and ESPN Radio, I have very strong opinions on the subject.

Tuesday night’s semi-final game had to be one of the most boring games I have ever seen. Rice came out hard, got a big lead, and then sat on it. At one point of the game, I started clocking the time of Rice’s possessions, and I believe it was three times they held the ball for over a minute. One possession in the third quarter, Rice held the ball for a minute and 45 seconds. Yes, there was an Essex foul in there, but that came at the one minute mark of that trip down court. It was so bad that during a 30 second time out, one of the officials came over to me at the press table and said, “I have two words for you Chris ‘shot clock’”. We were all looking at each other wondering when the game would end and if we could stay awake for the entire game.

Here is why I believe there should be a shot clock in the high school game. First of all, I don’t agree with the argument of “it diminishes the skills of the players”. With a shot clock, players have to think quicker, they have to be able to find the open look, and passing has to be sharper because there is a time limit to shoot. On defense, players are encouraged to pressure more. There is the added incentive to force the offensive team into a turnover and to play the shot clock and not just the game clock.

Secondly, we had the discussion in last month’s issue of Varsity Magazine on how Vermont student/athletes have not been able to attract college recruiters for scholarship opportunities. I believe one of the reasons for this in basketball is because college recruiters and coaches don’t know how kids will react with a 30 or 35 second shot clock. They don’t know if a potential recruit can shoot under pressure, they don’t know if they can run an up tempo type of game, nor do they know if a point guard can manage the clock on a possession by possession basis.

For a coach, their way of coaching would change. Coaches would not be able to play stall ball starting in the second quarter. When it comes to the end of a game, teams also would not be forced to start fouling with three to go so they can get the ball back. Teams would have to shoot, creating rebound chances, and a greater chance to come from behind. This would add more excitement to the game.

The prime example of needing a shot clock goes back only a couple of years when on January 12, 2005, Milton and BFA-Fairfax faced off in a boys game in Milton. The final score was a mind numbing 5-2 BFA victory. Here is the thing; that was the halftime score! Neither team scored in the second half, nor did either team go to the free throw line. This was a deliberate attempt by Milton’s coach to slow the game down as he felt he did not have the offense to hold down BFA. Bob Johnson of the Vermont Principals Association was quoted as saying, “It had to have been one of the most boring games in the world.”

More excitement in the game, better skill development, and more of an emphasis on coaching is why I believe there should be a shot clock in Vermont high school basketball. Being a former coach, I would have welcomed a shot clock because of the reasons I mentioned. I also think their fundamentals would have developed more, and I as a coach would have had to think on my feet more. We need the shot clock to avoid yawners like Tuesday’s Rice/Essex game and the infamous Milton/BFA game.

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