Tick, tick, tick

March 7, 2019

Low scores around the area and state in boys basketball sectionals last week rekindled the fire on the shot clock debate in the state of Indiana.

Good? Bad? Overreaction? Is it coming?

Coaches in La Porte County weighed in on the subject and the majority are in favor of the move, if it were to happen here.

“I have always been an advocate for looking at ways to negate holding the ball and slowing the pace of the game,” Michigan City coach John Boyd said. “There are many others that feel that it will take away from strategy and lump us all into a free-for-all style of play. High school coaches in Indiana are some of the best in the country and giving them a shot clock would only improve their ability to be better. It would be a fun twist to add another dynamic to the high school basketball game.”

La Porte’s Kyle Benge is on the same page as Boyd and doesn’t think the change would be that drastic.

“My view is that Indiana high school basketball is the best in the United States,” Benge said. “I think a shot clock would be beneficial with preparing our athletes who will play in the college game. If any state can make the transition, it should be easy in Indiana. We have some of the best coaches and players with a high basketball IQ.”

Support of a shot clock typically tends to run along the lines of the size of a school — big schools in favor and small schools against — but New Prairie’s Kris Davis and LaCrosse’s Preston Frame are exceptions.

“I would be in favor of one,” Davis said. “The biggest reason, in my opinion, is that it would allow teams that are down by a decent amount late in the game (10 to 13 points) a chance to still win. Teams wouldn’t be able to milk the clock or the team down wouldn’t feel the need to foul as much.”

Like Benge, Frame advocates as a learning tool for players who will continue beyond high school.

“For one, every other level has it in place,” Frame said. “Trying to get kids prepared for college ball would benefit them. A lot of people against it say it takes away the strategy of the game, but I disagree. Teams would just have to emphasize different areas, like rebounding. You can still control the pace, the tempo of a game with a shot clock in place. A shot clock doesn’t necessarily speed up the game in my opinion.”

Marquette’s Fred Mooney is a bigger advocate of widening the lane for safety purposes, but would be in favor of a shot clock in the 40-second range.

South Central’s Joe Wagner cautions, be careful what you wish for, but concedes it’s a situation where beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

“I have mixed feelings about the shot clock,” Wagner said. “I enjoy a defensive slugfest where teams are tough to score against every possession. Someone else may enjoy a high-scoring affair where nobody locks anybody up. Nobody will ever be in 100 percent agreement. College basketball’s 30-second clock has turned the majority of the possessions ending in a high ball screen and a skilled player shooting a contested shot. In high school, that same possession is happening except a not as skilled player is shooting that tough, contested shot.”

Faced with the prospect of a shot clock being implemented, Wagner hopes it would be in the 40-, 45-second range.

“Anything less than that, I think the game could potentially get very ugly,” he said. “When you have the most skilled players on the court, having a shot clock is definitely beneficial. When you don’t, a shot clock could potentially rush possessions. We have had games where we have defended extremely hard for over a minute of game and then finally broke down. A great defensive possession turned into points for the other side. On the other hand, we have had games where we unintentionally milked the clock due to inexperience and it doesn’t always make for the most exciting offenses either.”

Westville coach Drew Eubank categorizes himself a traditionalist, so he sides with leaving things as they are.

“I’m a fan of the eight-minute shot clock we currently have,” he said, referring to the game clock. “It’s hard for me to support the shot clock because I don’t care for the class system. Because I am a supporter of single-class basketball and think we should go back to it, I am in support of no shot clock. It gives the smaller schools a better chance to knock off the big schools. Also, there is no rule that teams have to sit back and allow teams to tuck it when that is the case.”

Locally, most of the stir surrounded Chesterton’s 35-30 upset of Valparaiso in the Class 4A Portage Sectional championship, a drastic reversal of a regular-season meeting won handily by the Vikings. While the score was low, Eubank said people were mistaking the game for being slow-paced.

“The two teams averaged a shot every 25 or so seconds, so even though everyone is complaining, it really wasn’t the type of slow down game people want to make it out to be,” he said.

Eubank coached several years on the Michigan City staff, where the Wolves have played at the Big Dipper tournament in Richton Park, Illinois and La Lumiere, where a 30-second clock was used.

“I don’t think it would have as much of a noticeable effect on the game,” he said. “I’ve coached in 10 high school games with shot clocks and seen three or four violations and only three or four other times when a desperation shot was attempted. If it becomes a reality, I will adapt and not complain.”

With all the on-court factors that have been raised, another major aspects of implementing a shot clock would be cost, which is estimated at $5,000. Many schools, Eubank noted, would have to install clocks and upgrade scoreboard systems that didn’t have the necessary software.

“I think the biggest issue of putting it in place is of course money,” Frame said. “Are schools going to be expected to pay for it themselves?”

It would also entail paying an additional person $50 or so a game for someone to operate it.

“A lot of schools won’t be thrilled about (that),” Eubank said.

Currently, nine states require the use of a shot clock of 30 or 35 seconds in high school — California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington.