The debate over whether the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS -- which sets rules for all high school sports in the U.S), should mandate the use of the shot clock for all high school basketball across the country continues to linger. Currently the choice to use the shot clock and the duration of the shot clock is left up to each individual state association. There have been proposals as recently as 2011 asking for each individual state to adopt the use of the shot clock, but all have been denied by the NFHS. At this time there are only eight states that require the use of the shot clock, both 30 and 35-second limits, those being New York, Maryland (girls only), Rhode Island, Massachusetts, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, and California.
Minnesota however partially adopted and implemented use of the shot clock before the 2007-08 season, which also allows for its use in non-conference matchups and holiday tournaments. This is where the Whitney Young Dolphins first encountered the new rule during the 2013-14 season as they faced Apple Valley High School in the GEICO ESPN High School Basketball Showcase in Minneapolis, MN on Dec. 12. At first thought this may be seen as problematic, causing ripples in an already established game plan but Young’s head coach Ty Slaughter looked at the challenge in a different light.
“Well, I think playing with a shot clock is really by far the best way to play basketball. I think from a standpoint of the way the game is going to be played at the very next level and the way it should be played at this level with the amount of talent across this Country, I think that absolutely Illinois is behind the curve on the shot clock [just] as Illinois is behind the curve on an awful lot of things,” he said speaking of the State not utilizing the shot clock, which is due more to the NFHS committee voting in opposition as recently as May 2012 and the oddly-placed brackets that unfortunately pair up the seemingly top teams in the city to battle it out among each other for a bid downstate instead of both getting the opportunity to play for the coveted high school national championship; a discussion that goes back many decades here in the city.
As coach Slaughter alluded to earlier, the presence of the shot clock prepares the high school athletes for the next levels of competition: collegiate and professional. The shot clock also makes the probability of successful possessions more likely as players’ focus would be solely on getting the designated job done in the allotted amount of time. Sophomore guard Rodney Herenton agreed saying, “Possessions are more important, there are more of them, turnovers have to be less, there have to be better shots, especially playing from behind; it’s easier to come back. So it adds different dimensions to the game, but we handled it pretty well.”
While in Massachusetts for the Hall of Fame Hoop Hall Classic on Jan. 20, the Dolphins faced a more limited shot clock than the one in Minnesota just a month or so before. But senior guard Miles Reynolds believed the adjustment was a positive one and did not negatively affect their style of play on a noticeable level.
“This shot clock was shorter than the last one with it being 30 seconds, closer to the NBA than college. Some of the shots were rushed but we usually took it in the first 20 seconds of the offense so it didn’t really affect us too much,” he said.
Next fall, the seniors will begin a new chapter of their lives as they don the jerseys of their respective colleges. And all of them believe the experience they received with the shot clock in high school will better prepare them for the next level in college. Most even went on to say the shot clock should be mandated right here in the city.
“The shot clock is really good for high school basketball and should be included in every state because without the shot clock, we would not have won either game because the other teams could have just held the ball and took the air out the ball, so in both of those games we got down double digits and we came back late in the fourth quarter due to the shot clock,” Reynolds said speaking of the matchup against Prime Prep at the Cancer Research Classic at Wheeling University in Texas on January 4 and against Oak Hill in the aforementioned Hall of Fame Hoop Hall Classic in Massachusetts.
Center Jahlil Okafor chimed in saying, “I loved playing with the shot clock. Even when we played Prime Prep on ESPN, we were down 18 and we managed to get back in the game and win that, and I think that’s just because of the shot clock. I wish all of our games had shot clocks.”
There is a common thread between shot clocks and the mindset of high school players. The shot clock demands control, which the athletes like. But due to financial limitations the dream of having the shot clock permanently in high school basketball is still far fetched. The use of the shot clock would require multiple people running both the clock itself as well as the game clock. Add in the cost of installing the technology in each school across the State, paying heavy attention to low-income areas where a shot clock may seem trivial.
But many remain hopeful that sometime in the near future, the accommodations will be made and high school basketball will become an even more structured and thrilling experience, for both the players and the fans watching.