Coaches, MSHSAA and NFHS directors as well as a local player who has played in college talk about the pros and cons of a high school shot clock

Every basketball season in Missouri — maybe multiple times a season for some teams — the inevitable happens.

Maybe it’s because one team is overmatched. Maybe they’re just waiting for the final shot in a quarter. But a stall will draw heckling from a section of the crowd and eventually beg the question, “Why do we not have a shot clock?”

The strategy (or lack thereof depending on who you ask) of “stalling” in basketball was popularized by University of North Carolina coach Dean Smith in the 1960s via his “four corners offense.” However, the Atlantic Coast Conference tried a shot clock experimentally in 1983 and the NCAA adopted the shot clock nationally in 1985 in an attempt to prevent stalling.

Still, stalling lives on at the high school level in all but eight states — California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington — who have decided to implement shot clocks of either 30 or 35 seconds.

However, due to the fact the National Federation of State High School Associations, or NFHS, has not had a vote pass on the implementation of the shot clock nationally or given states the ability to choose (state adoption), states that independently elect to use a shot clock are excluded from the national rules committee. They will only be allowed back onto the rules committee if the NFHS votes to implement the shot clock nationally or a vote passes to let states adopt it on their own.

Theresia Wynns, the director of sports and officials with the NFHS, said there has been talk of the shot clock for at least the last 10 years but each time the vote has failed to pass.

“Basically because we’ve kind of informally looked at how quickly, at the high school level, is the ball shot — are they holding the ball?” Wynns said. “Every blue moon you’ll find a coach who determines that, ‘My strategy has to be to hold the ball in order to beat Team A.’ What we’ve found is that, generally, it’s a pretty fast game as far as high school is concerned. The ball is not held very often.”

Even if it doesn’t happen often, which depends greatly on a person’s definition of the word, stalling becomes a heated discussion every season and it’s no wonder why.

Just last week, William Chrisman High School defeated Belton 21-3 on Jan. 16 in a game near Kansas City that was 0-0 after the first quarter with Belton taking the only shot in the frame.

William Chrisman led 2-0 at halftime, on 1-1 shooting, and Athletic Director Greg McGhee tweeted, “Quickest half ever of basketball 18 minutes.”

Belton’s three points came on a shot from behind the arc with 2:22 left to play.

Hearing stories like this causes Ty Nichols, head coach of Max Preps’ No. 2-ranked Sierra Canyon (Calif.) High School boys basketball team, to exclaim in incredulity.

“I can’t believe that we’re in [2017] and the high school federations in the United States of America can’t get unified on this,” he said.

As Nichols and the Trailblazers cross the country to play in high-competition tournaments, they will occasionally land in states without shot clocks, as they did when they played in the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield earlier this month.

“When we go to Missouri, we have to prepare for the last three minutes of a game differently than we prepare for the last three minutes of a game at the Hoophall in Connecticut or in our own state playoffs here,” Nichols said.

Oftentimes his defense will have to be ready to defend while the offense will pass the ball upwards of 16 times waiting for the final shot of a quarter.

“Playing defense for a minute...that’s a long time.”

And yet the high schools in the state of Missouri, along with 41 other states, continue to subject their players (and the ones who travel into the state) to stalling while other countries — including the entire continent of Europe — have a unified system that includes the shot clock.

There is support for bringing it to the Missouri high school level among the coaches, including Waynesville boys basketball coach Chris Pilz. Even if he disagrees — in jest — that there isn’t one in place already.

“We do have a current shot clock,” Pilz says with a sly smile. “It’s eight minutes. I would like to see it shortened to about 35 [seconds].”

One difference Pilz said that could give him a different perspective from other coaches at the high school level is that he coached for seven years at the collegiate level at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“What I liked about it, in my experience with it, it did give some definity to the end of defensive possessions as long as you could secure the rebound,” Pilz said, going on to say he felt his players were more locked in on defense as they tried to force shot clock violations.

For every coach in favor of the shot clock, however, there is one who is adamantly against it.

Why? Richland girls basketball coach Charley Parker said it’s because he thinks it will result in more possessions.

“Right now, with my style of play here at small Class 2 basketball girls, we’re getting 30 to 40 possessions a night,” Parker said. “That’s a lot of wear and tear, personally, I think, on those five girls that I play for a continuous amount and a whole bunch of minutes. Now, do I think it would be good for higher class basketball? Yeah, I think that Waynesville could do it. I think all those Class 4 or 5 schools can do it because they have a lot of athletes to pick from.”

According to TeamRankings.com, NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams average anywhere from 62 to 86 possessions per game as of Jan. 24. College basketball has a 30-second shot clock.

Dustin Matlock, boys basketball coach and athletic director at Laquey High School, doesn’t think the shot clock will speed the game up to an over-taxing level.

“I don’t think it will affect the overall gameplay as much as people think it will depending on what they set the time at,” Matlock said. “The only thing it will affect is, obviously, your strategy at the end of quarters and stuff like that. If you have a minute and five left and you’re up three or only up two and there’s a 45-second shot clock then the defense can just play it out and get a stop and they have a chance to score versus having to start fouling.”

Defensive-minded coaches, Nichols says, should be all for having a shot clock as it adds to their strategy from his viewpoint.

“Now, you can force teams into a late-second shot if you can play defense that way,” he said. “Some of these teams that really like to pack it in and go this really tight 2-3 zone or a really sloughing, Rick Majerus man-to-man, you can get teams in deep into the shot clock because it’s difficult to get easy shots at the rim.”

Even so, coaches like Crocker’s Mike Austin think it will cause players to rush their shot and see their shooting percentages fall — thereby offsetting any good done on the defensive side of the ball.

“I’m totally against it,” Austin said. “I think it would speed up the game more and cause more turnovers. Especially if you have a young team. If you’ve got to play with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, it’s bad enough trying to teach them the basics and fundamentals.”

That thinking might be a bit of a stretch according to Matlock, who says his Hornets play a more deliberate style and rarely have possessions that go over 30-35 seconds.

“I don’t think it’s going to speed up the game that much,” Matlock said. “Some of these guys think, ‘Oh, no. We’re getting a shot clock. We’re going to be running and gunning.’ No. Look at the college game. You’ve got some teams, some of the smaller ones, like Harvard and some of them guys. They still play ball control. They work the ball, they get good shots. Sometimes they’re playing until the end of the shot clock.”

Former Waynesville Tiger guard Dwayne Morton, now a freshman Goucher Gopher, said Matlock is right. Even in his first year under the shot clock he does not feel as though he has to hurry his shot.

“I wouldn’t say rushed, more so cautious,” Morton said.

Morton added he felt having a shot clock would have better prepared him for college ball.

“Most definitely,” he said. “Going into college it was hard to always remember to look up at the shot clock to see how much time we had left to score.”

There’s still one argument against the shot clock that gives even some of the fiercest supporters pause.

The cost.

Google searches for shot clocks reveals a wide variety of prices but it seems wireless options for high school gyms range from $900 on up.

Then there’s the added cost of possibly keeping a three-man team of officials instead of relaxing it to two on non-tournament regular season games, which some Frisco League schools do.

“On a typical night our game fee [for referees] is $110 plus mileage,” Matlock said. “There’s a lot of small districts that are barely hanging on now with their athletics.”

Then there’s the possibility of the cost for another person to run the shot clock.

Jason West, communications director at the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), said it will likely be a person supplied by the school, not another official, which prevents a fourth official from added, saving a great deal of money.

The clock keeper at Laquey, Matlock said, is paid $15 a game. So, $30 a night if a junior varsity game is played beforehand.

All told, Laquey has 10 non-tournament home games scheduled in the regular season. So the Laquey athletic department would be paying out an extra $1,110 if a third official was added to each game, not counting mileage. An extra person running the shot clock would be another $300.

But Nichols, of California’s Sierra Canyon, said the clock keeper should be able to run both the game clock and shot clock.

“We have one guy,” Nichols said. “He runs the clock in one hand and he has the shot clock in his right hand.

“You have to get good at it. I mean, it’s not like you can’t be good. You need to be focused when you’re doing it. But once you get the pace of the game and you’ve done it two or three times it becomes second nature.”

Phillip Gambill, Crocker’s boys' basketball coach, disagrees on that level even if he remains neutral on the shot clock issue at large.

“The actual scorekeeper keeps up with fouls, the score and the time,” Gambill said. “That’s giving one more job to that person if you go to a school and try to have one person doing all that...that can get pretty complicated. You’d have to have two people over there at that point.”

And so it goes, high school coaches going back-and-forth on every issue of the shot clock.

It’ll remain that way in Missouri until the NFHS passes a rule or allows state adoption because MSHSAA will not be giving up its right to attend a rules committee in order to make its own decision on the shot clock.

“The Missouri Association is not going to adopt anything that goes against the Federation rules just so we have the ability to, if we don’t agree with a rule, we can be a part of changing the rule,” West said.

However, West did say there are alternative rules that could be voted upon at the state level that would keep the state in compliance with the NFHS and deter stalling.

“There are alternatives to having a shot clock like what some of the other states have found,” West said. “Do we really need to have a shot clock if we’re handing out technical fouls for stalling and just standing there with the ball underneath your arm? That’s one that hasn’t been brought up too much in Missouri yet.”

Nearly every coach interviewed for this story said no rule will be able to stop the inevitable, however.

No, not the complaining from the fans (but that is inevitable and will continue ceaselessly). Many coaches said the shot clock is coming and it’s only a matter of time.

Matlock’s statement on that note: “If we get one, I’ll make the proper adjustments and learn to play with it and that’ll be it.”

Do you believe the shot clock is needed at the high school level? Yes No, just add more rules to deter stalling No, the game is fine as it is Don't know