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Once again, adding shot clock to high school games gets mixed reviews

05/04/2023, 11:45am CDT
By Mark Miller

A shot clock could be coming to high school basketball, potentially impacting games like this 2023 state title contest between West Salem and Brillion

Fox Valley Lutheran High School in Appleton already is raising funds to install shot clocks on the two main baskets of its varsity gymnasium. 

Coach Jay Wendland is hoping to have the clocks, which are priced at approximately $4,100 per clock, in place for the 2024-25 season, even though at this point the WIAA does not allow the use of the shot clock.

"From a funding standpoint, we are trying to raise the money already to put in shot clocks and backboard lights," Wendland said. "We are hoping to have this in place for the 2024-25 season. 

"I am in favor of the shot clock. When I was coaching in Minnesota, we had the opportunity to use the shot clock in non-conference games if both teams agreed. I love the pace of play it enforces, end of half/game strategies, strategies to delay the ball up the court to not defend as many actions in the half court, and the teaching aspects I would have with my team. I think it is great for the game." 

Wendland and other pro-shot clock advocates are hoping the latest shot clock proposal put forth by the WIAA Basketball Coaches Advisory Committee moves forward through the maze-like, rule-making process used by the WIAA. 

The proposal set forth from an April 5 meeting includes implementing a shot clock for the 2025-26 season, utilizing NFHS shot clock regulations. That would include a 35-second shot clock with two visible timepieces attached to the backboard supports.

For a complete review regarding the steps required for passage of the shot clock, please refer to this article posted earlier on WSN by Travis Wilson. 

Needless to say, it's a long and winding road in order for the idea to get passed and implemented, but that is one of big reasons the Basketball Coaches Advisory Committee used 2025-26 as a start date. 

Jerry Petitgoue, the long-time executive director of the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, is hopeful the shot clock will become part of the state high-school basketball scene in the near future. 

"My big question ... last year the committee proposed that we experiment with a shot clock in holiday tournaments and non-conference games, and that was voted down," Petitgoue said. "I've been a huge proponent of the shot clock. I think the 2025-26 idea is great, but will it go through? It has to go through so many hurdles.

"Next year there will be more than 20 states using the shot clock. The cost is a concern, but I think there is somebody in every town that would sponsor the shot clock. If mistakes happen with running the clock, you correct them. Mistakes would be made, we know that. But it's progression of basketball.

"From a WBCA standpoint, this is the No. 1 thing on our agenda. I believe that wholeheartedly. I think adding a shot clock would be great for the game of basketball."

In December of 2022, the WBCA conducted a survey requesting all schools in the WIAA to cast one vote either for or against the shot clock. A total of 339 schools responded. Here are the results:

WBCA Shot Clock Survey

Div 1 Div 2 Div 3 Div 4 Div 5
Yes 84.5% 62.5% 41.1% 33.3% 21.2%
No 15.5% 37.5% 58.9% 66.7% 78.8%

Count Kickapoo girls' coach Eric Wiegel among the almost four-out-of-five small-school mentors against adding the shot clock.

"The reasons I am against a shot clock are many," Wiegel said. "I really don't think it is going to be a factor in many games. In our games, teams either get a shot or turn the ball over in the first 20 seconds. The only time the shot clock would become a factor in late in games that are close. Based on scores throughout the season, that is a very small percentage of games played. 

"The shot clock also could lead to the margins of victory being even larger than they are now. We have been fortunate over the last eight years with our success. We have held the ball at the end of games for long stretches of time to avoid the score from being extremely lopsided. If we had to shoot every 30 seconds, we'd more than likely score more points, which could lead to hard feelings between coaches, players and fans. 

"At the Division 5 level, our practice time is evenly split between individual skill development and team concepts. By implementing a shot clock, we would have to take time away from one of those to work on end of shot lock offensive plays and end of shot clock defensive concepts."

Examining the WBCA survey results, it might be worth exploring implementing the shot clock at the Division 1 and 2 levels initially, and then possibly adding it for Divisions 3-4-5. 

There are some issues with that concept as some leagues include teams at both the Division 2 and 3 levels, and some conferences have Divisions 2-3-4 schools. 

Still, Arizona and Nebraska have adopted the shot clock just for the large classes in their states.

"I think at the Divisions 1 and 2 levels, there is a better argument for a shot clock, but I don't think that it should be implemented, especially for us in Division 5," Drummond coach Josh Hanson said. "I feel we are getting closer to passing as it has gained momentum over the years. The most recent vote passed easily in big schools and was voted down in smaller schools. I hope that is noticed. If it does pass, I hope that it is implemented at Divisions 1 and 2 first and then gets implemented later in small divisions."

One of the more respected coaches in northern Wisconsin, Hanson has won 274 games in 19 seasons as the head coach at Drummond. So he has extensive experience with small-school basketball. 

He believes the overall quality of play will decrease with the addition of a shot clock.

"The strategy of team play and breaking down a defense will go away," he said. "It will turn to one-on-one or high pick-and-roll with shooters spreading the defense. Post play will become less important and all teams will end up running the same type of system. And at our level, we don't have the depth at positions where numbers 3-4-5 have the ability to shoot outside shots consistently so it will lead to a lot of quick, bad shots."

Like other small schools coaches in the state, Hanson is concerned about the initial cost of adding shot clocks, but also with finding qualified personnel to operate the clock.

"The initial start-up cost is a concern," he said. "But not as much as the game-to-game operation. The cost isn't much of an issue for large schools where their athletic budgets can handle the extra expense, but in small schools that is a large added cost. We already have a difficult time finding two qualified people to run the scoreboard and scorebook, not to mention finding a third person, who is qualified, to run the shot clock.

"Finally, I just feel a lot of the coaching will be taken out of the game and winning or losing will come down to who shoots the best in a particular game. A shot clock will take away from controlling the tempo and good quality team play."

Auburndale boys' coach Chad Weinfurter, one of the more successful coaches in central Wisconsin, also feels a shot clock is not needed.

"I'm not a proponent of the shot clock," Weinfurter said. "I think it's a want more than a need in the high school game.

"I've heard that a shot clock prepares players for college. That's a very small percentage of our high school players. I've heard it eliminates people from holding the ball. As a coach, you can tell your guys to go out and guard them. Develop a strategy to counteract it.

"I've heard kids will be forced to improve their skills to handle late-shot clock situations. As coaches, we are working our tails off trying to get kids to improve. It's easier than it sounds. We beg kids to get in the gym now. I've heard it will force coaches to coach more and put more sets in. There's enough over coaching the way it is. Finally, I've heard your kids will only have to defend for 35 seconds. I can see the value in that.

"Overall, I think adding a shot clock is going to affect the smaller, less skilled teams more than the skilled teams and players. It may lead to a lot of isolation ball and poor shot selection. I just don't see it as something that is desperately needed."

Altoona girls' coach Michelle Peplinski, like many fans, feels a shot clock will eliminate or at least severely reduce stall strategies employed by teams.

"A shot clock eliminates the ability to game manage with a stall strategy for late half/end of game situations," she said. "With a few minutes left on the clock -- if you are the team that is down -- you're not out of it. You know getting stops defensively gives you an opportunity to score rather than chase the ball in a four-corners or other passing-game situation. This can take an otherwise competitive and exciting game to a frustrating/wasted momentum ending that doesn't feel representative of the whole, competitive game flow.

"A shot clock lessens the strategy of having to foul at the end of a game, which at times leads to heightened emotions and potential for injuries with hard have-to-foul situations."

This article includes contributions from WSN girls' basketball editor Norbert Durst. 

For the latest and most up to date boys' basketball news and recruiting information, follow Mark on Twitter @wisbbyearbook. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Mark by clicking here.

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