Hot topic: Should Arizona add a shot clock for HS basketball?

While eight states across the country have instituted the use of a shot clock in high school basketball games, Arizona isn’t one of them.

However, that may be about to change.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), the governing body for high school athletics in the state, has been studying the idea of adding a shot clock.  But it will be up to each of the six conference committees to submit a proposal to the AIA’s Executive Board if they would like to see the clock added for the 2022-23 season.

A shot clock was just one of a number of topics on the agenda of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which met in April.  The organization’s Basketball Rules Committee decided that each state association would be able to adopt a shot clock beginning next year.

So now school coaches and administrators in Arizona will begin looking more closely at the pros and cons of adopting a shot clock.  There has already been some experimentation with the idea, but now there is a timeline attached.

Seth Polansky, writing for AZPreps365, points out that over the last couple of years, the Visit Mesa Tournament has used a shot clock.  That tourney attracts teams from New York, Nevada, Utah, Washington, and California, thus making it a good testing ground.  California, Washington, and New York are three of the eight states already using the clock.

According to Polansky, tournament operators were given permission to use a shot clock in those games that didn’t affect power point rankings.  “About 100,000 data points” were collected during the games, a statistic which tracked the number of possessions during the two tournaments.

That study revealed that there were just under 16 seconds per possession.  A shot clock would time out at 35 seconds, illustrating minimal impact over the course of a game.

That would track with the findings of the NFS rules committee, which queried those states already using the shot clock and found the number of shot clock violations “was negligible.”  Further statistical analysis by the NFHS shows that on a national basis, the average possession in a boys’ game was 15.3 seconds, and 15.8 for the girls.

There are pros and cons to the issue, all of which will be kicked around before a decision is made.

On the positive side, there are those coaches who feel adopting a shot clock would add some excitement and interest when first introduced and likely create some exciting times when a game’s outcome is on the line.

It’s also argued that the use of a shot clock would require coaches to up their game, so to speak, since it would require the offense getting into their set-ups more quickly and force the defense to adjust as well.

One argument, however, for the shot clock doesn’t really hold up.  Some suggest that adding the clock at the high school level would prepare the players for the college game, which uses it.  But statistics show that fewer than five percent of prep players continue on to play in college, hardly worth the upheaval in the high school game.

On the other side of the issue are solid arguments against adding the clock.  Primarily, they revolve around money.  There would be the additional costs to add the shot clock to the scoreboard, something that would need to be visible from both sides of the court; more money to add a third person to the officiating team; and building a trained shot-clock operator into the budget.

One approach might be to get the larger schools in the state’s top conferences to wade into the water first, since they would be more likely to afford the added cost, and then add the smaller programs later.

Arizona’s Canyon Athletic Association, which includes varsity teams and those programs that provide a national schedule for ‘elite’ players, has already taken the leap of faith.  The CAA added a shot clock last season.  Seems like it would be a good idea to check with those folks, to see how things went in the first year.

A survey was sent to AIA-member schools during the 2019-20 season, to get input on the idea of adding the shot clock.  According to Polansky, the results showed that 74 percent of coaches were for the change, but only 54 percent of the athletic directors saw it as a workable idea.

It’s obvious from that survey that adding the shot clock isn’t going to be a slam dunk.

Much discussion lies ahead.