The High School Shot Clock Debate

If you’re an avid hoop fan, you may find yourself watching more than 2-3 games per week.  No matter if you’re a player, coach, family member, or fan, everyone can connect with the “flow” of the game.  Meaning – watching two teams that are playing with a lot of energy, passing the ball effectively, and putting up a large number of shot attempts.  At times, the game slows down in the 2nd half or 4th quarter from a coach instructing his/her team, if they have a lead, to pass the ball around to run down the clock and win the game.  Most high school coaches may do this if they’re playing against a tough opponent and the game is uncomfortably close.  This is not illegal or unsportsmanlike.  However, fans may feel like this is an unfair advantage while leaving a lot to be desired in competitive basketball.
We learned that the NBA once experienced this same kind of debate.  Professional basketball was struggling in the early 1950s, and one look at what was taking place on the court explained why. The game was dull, all too often played at a snail’s pace with one team opening up a lead and freezing the ball until time ran out. The only thing the trailing team could do was foul, thus games became rough, ragged, free throw-shooting contests. “The game had become a stalling game,” Danny Biasone, owner of the Syracuse Nationals, said before his death in 1992. “A team would get ahead, even in the first half, and it would go into a stall. The other team would keep fouling, and it got to be a constant parade to the foul line. Boy, was it dull!” Biasone’s idea was a shot clock, giving a team 24 seconds to attempt a shot or else lose possession of the ball. To deal with the matter of excessive fouling, the Board of Governors also adopted a rule limiting the number of fouls per team per quarter, with each foul became a shooting foul after the limit was reached. The two rules complemented each other perfectly (Alex Sachare, from
If you’ve attended a high school varsity basketball game or AAU tournament in the past few years, you may be able to recollect some of the same problems that the NBA league went through.  There are a lot of factors that combine to make up an aggressive game of basketball.  When you mix in an inordinate amount “stalling” or “excessive fouling”, the game changes.

A survey conducted by the Idaho Falls Post-Register, in February 2013, indicated that 61.7 percent of high school head basketball coaches in that state favor a shot clock, and support was nearly equal among boys’ and girls’ coaches. Many of the coaches in favor of a shot clock cited concerns about opponents stalling for a strategic advantage. Two-possession leads prove nearly insurmountable late in the game due to the tactic. And some schools use the tactic for all 32 minutes to compete with a superior team. (

Adding a shot clock in high school may help player become better acclimated to the college or pro game, if they are fortunate enough to be recruited to the next level.  However, it may hinder a basketball team that may not have as much experience in the game.  That team may need more than 25-35 seconds to set up, execute a play, and put up a good shot.  No matter which side you’re on, the shot clock debate isn’t going away any time soon.