Shot Clock

Hanceville’s Zach Campbell shoots a jumper during a game last season.

It's a question I've been asked from time to time during my growing tenure with The Times.

Should there or should there not be a shot clock for high school basketball games in Alabama?

It's also been a topic of discussion — in fairness, one of many — with local coaches over the years.

And with the Georgia High School Association approving a 30-second shot clock last week, now seems as perfect a time as any to take a deeper dive.

The 10th state to adopt a high school shot clock, Georgia plans to slowly implement the changes.

Here's the breakdown over the next three seasons, according to multiple media outlets in the state:

— In 2020-21, a shot clock will only be utilized in GHSA-approved holiday tournaments and showcases.

— In 2021-22, the GHSA will allow each region to vote on whether or not to have a shot clock in games.

— In 2022-23, a shot clock will be mandatory for all varsity basketball games.

Georgia is also the first southern state to have a shot clock for high school basketball.

Which begs the question: Could the clock be ticking — sorry, couldn't help myself — for Alabama?

Whether it is or it isn't, coaches have differing opinions on the subject.

“I would be for it,” West Point varsity girls coach John Welborn said. “It’s more exciting, and it’ll keep teams from stalling the ball in the fourth quarter. It’d speed the game up a little bit, too, just for the fact that people wouldn’t be fouling every 10 seconds (in a close game). I think it would give us more exciting finishes."

Remember when I mentioned differing opinions?

“I don’t like it. I wouldn’t be in favor of it,” Cold Springs varsity boys coach Tim Willoughby said. “I think with high school, there are going to be a lot of coaches who get in a slow-you-down zone press and make teams reverse the basketball — not really trying to turn you over. And if we have a 30-second shot clock, suddenly you’ve got 20 seconds, and you’re trying to set up an offense. I think I could live with 40 (seconds), but 30 would be unfortunate to me.”

Willoughby, however, thinks coaches would adapt if a shot clock was ever enforced at the prep level.

“I’d still try to get a quality shot,” he said. “What you have to do is … there’s going to be a cutoff at a certain point, whether that’s five seconds or seven seconds. And wherever the ball is, you’ve got to have something to run. Go ahead and play your game, but you've got to have a buzzer-beater every time. Everybody would work on those last five seconds. Worst thing would be, you get down to three seconds and jack up a 3.”

One of the biggest issues regarding the adoption of a shot clock is the money — plain and simple.

Installation wouldn’t be cheap, and if the AHSAA requires an official to operate it, programs are looking at additional costs at the expense of their bottom line.

And that’s on top of paying game officials an average of $75 apiece for each and every home contest.

“My biggest thing is the cost. How much is that going to cost?” Holly Pond varsity boys coach Mitch Morris opined. “We barely make it paying our officials and buying our basketballs. It’s another big expense. Do we have to pay an extra official or train someone to operate it? I think in smaller classifications, it’s a pretty big deal. As far as affecting the game, though, pace of play for the most part is very fast. I don’t see a problem on our side with that.”

Holly Pond Principal and Athletic Director Steve Miller echoed those financial sentiments.

"With this virus, I think any type of new implementation that would cost money is an issue," Miller said.

Putting dollar bills aside, Morris said the biggest changes to the game could come during crunch time.

“What if you have a tight game with less than a minute to play, and a team is trying to hold it? That’s a strategy that’ll have to be put in play,” he said. “If you have a shot clock, now you have to play good defense. I think at certain points in the game that's something coaches will have to have a good strategy for.”

Cullman varsity girls coach Josh Hembree is one in strong favor of a shot clock.

In fact, he was fighting for it during his days coaching in Georgia before crossing state lines.

"I think it adds another dimension to the game from a strategy standpoint," he said. "You hate to see teams stalling the basketball and things like that. We play uptempo, so it doesn't really affect us. But you'd have to start developing players with higher basketball IQs, I think. I don't know where Alabama is on it, but I really think a lot of people would be on board. It would make it fun for fans to watch and players to play."

Hembree said Georgia had been discussing a shot clock for at least 15 years before last week's proposal was approved.

As for the financial aspect, he added the GHSA has a good plan to help offset costs to schools.

"We were always lobbying for this," Hembree said. "They have a good solution, too. The GHSA raised and donated money to schools who maybe didn't have the extra money for this. And because it's a three-year plan, they are able to raise funds and have a specific allotment for schools that need it."

California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington are the other states that have utilized a shot clock for high school basketball.

For Vinemont varsity boys coach Preston Boyd, he’d like to have a few conversations about their findings.

How is it now in relation to the beginning? Have there been user errors? Any tweaks along the way?

“I’d love to talk to those states that have it implemented and talk to people and see what kind of situations have occurred,” he said. “People running the clocks are going to make mistakes. Has that caused problems for teams? If we are going to get it, there needs to be a phase-in period. I would be for it, though.”

Cold Springs varsity girls coach Tammy West has been around the game for quite a long time.

And the four-time state champion coach touched on what she thought a shot clock would change.

"I know coaches who would love it and hate it," she said. "I think it could take some strategy away. I think there'd be fewer upsets and a lot more turnovers initially. But for kids who want to go to college, it will really benefit them. It gets them more ready for the college game."

Speaking of the kids, Fairview senior Maddie Yeager would be all for a shot clock.

"I'd like it, because the game would be faster," she said. "It would put more pressure on our offense to do it right. I think it would take five or six games to adjust, but it'd be exciting if it happened."

We've heard from coaches and players, but what would referees think about the possible change?

Cullman native Brandon Schultz, a longtime official, is siding with Yeager.

"I think it's needed," he said. "It helps out the college game, so I don't know why it wouldn't help out the high school game as well. The officials would work with the operator if that person is provided by the school. The clock would be monitored and if it's not on the right number, we'd have to stop and fix that.

"I think once everyone got used to it, it would be a great thing to have. You're going to have small lumps at the start, but I think everyone would really like it."

Good Hope varsity boys coach Drew Adams is in that camp.

“I think it rewards good defense,” he said. “I also think it makes the flow of the game better. I think 35 or 40 seconds is better, though. You don’t see a ton of teams holding the ball that long, and it doesn’t change for a lot of teams. But it would make late-game situations way more entertaining.”

There you have it.

Some for it. Some against it. Some who'd like more information. Some who think it improves the game.

As for me? Well, I'd like to see it eventually.

While I don't think the high school game needs wholesale changes — but can we please have fewer timeouts and teams fouling down 10 with 15 seconds left? — I do think a shot clock does more good than harm.

But until (read: if) that time comes, we can continue to talk about the pros and cons every season.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 236 or at jwinfrey@cullmantimes.com.​

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