The world of sports is always changing. Whether it’s the way a game is played, how it is scored, or how it is viewed, changes are always happening. Despite the popular thought that change is a positive, that’s not always true.
Last week, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association made one of the biggest mistakes when it comes to high school basketball. Starting in the 2019-2020 basketball season, athletes in Wisconsin will be playing the game of basketball with a shot clock. This is a huge mistake.
The idea of adding a shot clock to the high school game has been a hot topic around the state, and around the nation, for that matter. All it takes is for one game to have a team stall for the discussion to come up again. What people don’t understand is that it takes two teams to stall.
If a team with the lead late in the game decides to hold the ball for a bit, so what? Come out and guard them. If the other team decides to sit back in a zone or not pressure the ball, that’s their problem. It takes just as much skill to play keep away from pressure defense as it does to score. If a team can hold the ball while facing pressure defense for an extended period of time, that’s the sign of a well-coached team that knows how to work together. It’s not a lame style of basketball to play. If your opponent is holding the ball well outside the 3-point line, go and play defense and get the ball. Don’t just whine about it.
While many people tend to be in favor of adding a shot clock for the reason that it will make games more exciting, I couldn’t disagree more. Sure, there are some games from time to time where a team with the lead hesitates to score at a pace that they usually do. Yes, a shot clock would force those teams to keep playing at a pace that is more up-tempo for the final minutes, but what about the other 30-35 minutes?
People who are in favor of adding a shot clock to the high school game argue that it will make games more exciting, while in reality, shot clocks make the game less exciting.
By adding a shot clock, you are completely eliminating a style of play in the game of basketball. There’s nothing wrong with a team that likes to run up and down the court and get as many shots as possible. There’s nothing wrong with a team that likes to be balanced when it comes to tempo. There is also nothing wrong with a team that likes to play slow and make sure they get quality possessions and shots each and every time down the court.
By adding a shot clock, you’re eliminating a complete style of how to play the game of basketball.
In my short career as a sports editor so far, I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to cover high school basketball all around Minnesota, and Wisconsin somewhat, as well. The best part about that is seeing all the different styles in whichthe game is played.
During my time at the Winona Daily News as a part-time sports writer during my senior year at Winona State University, I got the chance to cover some teams in Wisconsin, as well as other southeastern Minnesota schools. Even in just the Winona Daily News’ coverage area, there were plenty of different styles being played.
There was Winona Senior High School, which had the bodies and skilled athletes to play an up-tempo style. There was the St. Charles Saints, which had a balanced attack of being aggressive and being patient for a good shot. And then there was the Rushford-Peterson Trojans, which are arguably coached by one of the best coaches in the state in Tom Vix. The Trojans have been of the top teams in Class A (they also won the state championship in 2015).
The Trojans play a slow pace on offense, and make the defense work while hardly taking rushed or bad shots. There’s nothing wrong with that style of play. It’s how they want to play and that’s the beauty of high school basketball.
Most of the games played by the Trojans have scores around the 50s or 60s, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
By adding a shot clock to the game of high school basketball, you are completely eliminating Rushford-Peterson’s style of play – a style of play that has them respected as one the best teams in Class A the last decade or so.
Following my time in Winona, I headed west to the small town of Sleepy Eye. During my year in Sleepy Eye, I was amazed at how the style of basketball was different than what I played in high school, and what I covered in Winona.
Not only does the concept of adding a shot clock affect the styles of basketball being played, it also affects school districts and communities, as well. The truth is, shot clocks are not cheap to install. Depending on which scoreboards teams have in their gyms currently, adding a shot clock could run anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. Not only does installing a shot clock cost money, but a qualified person must be able to run it, and most likely be paid to run it, as well. Also, some hoops may not even be able to support a shot clock, which begs the question, where are these shot clocks going to be displayed?
Yes, some schools will be able to afford installing a shot clock with no problem. In fact, there are some high schools around the state that already have shot clocks.
But what about the small schools that struggle to make budgets meet? What about the school that barely have enough money to put a basketball program out on the court, or even have a gym?
In today’s day and age, I feel we’re always looking how we can improve things or make things better. We constantly evaluate how we can add things to make it more exciting, while losing sight of what’s really in front of us. The fact is, high school basketball isn’t broken. So, let’s not fix it.
This isn’t the National Basketball Association. This isn’t the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and this isn’t professional basketball overseas.
The number of kids who will play basketball at the collegiate level or professional level is miniscule compared to why high school basketball is so great. High school basketball is not a training camp or minor league system for colleges and pro teams. It’s about the kids, the school, and the community enjoying the sport they love.
There’s nothing wrong with high school basketball. Let’s keep it that way. I sincerely hope that the Minnesota State High School league doesn’t make the same mistake the WIAA just did.
Whether you are for or against adding a shot clock at the high school basketball level, let’s not lose sight of why we love the game at this level, and the reason behind that love.