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Shorter Shot Clock Basketball

PEORIA -- For years, Manual has called it the "spread."

When that fast-paced Peoria boys basketball program wants to pull defenses out of their comfort zones, its guards will hold the ball and pass it around the half court -- what other teams also might call a four-corner play.

"We didn't want to play against a team that passed it 12 or 15 times," said Manual coach Willie Coleman, who played for the Rams under both legendary coaches Dick Van Scyoc and Wayne McClain. Now, Coleman has the Rams back at the state finals. Manual (19-11) faces East St. Louis (28-6) in a 3A semifinal at 1 p.m. Friday inside Carver Arena.

"But when we had to play against a zone team, that worked to our advantage, too," Coleman said, "because we wanted them to come out of that zone and play man-to-man so we were able to score."

No matter the strategy, situations like these happen every so often in Illinois high school basketball -- which unlike the college and professional ranks -- operates its games without a shot clock.

The college game gives each team 30 seconds per possession, while the NBA allows for 24 seconds. Of the nine states that now have prep shot clocks in place, most allow between 30 and 35 seconds.

As for Illinois, a shot clock in high school basketball may still be some time away. But coaches and administrators interviewed by the Journal Star like the idea -- even if logistics might be a small initial hurdle.

"(A shot clock) would be great for us, because we love a fast-paced game, but sucks for teams that pass the ball around 15 times because they would be the ones struggling with a shot clock," Coleman said. "We are with it, and that would play to our advantage."

Yet year after year, proposals to implement a shot clock into the prep hoops game has been shut down by the National Federation of State High School Associations Basketball Rules Committee.

However, there were no NFHS shot clock rules proposals for this season. This came on the heels of narrowly missing NFHS approval for the 2017-2018 season. Rules adapted by the NFHS are followed by the Illinois High School Association.

"Because it wasn't submitted to be considered, I don't believe it will be in place for 2019-20," IHSA executive director Craig Anderson told the DeKalb Daily Chronicle in July. "Because anything like that, if they are going to recommend a change to a rule, it would be at least a year, more likely two years before it actually gets passed."

Nine states -- California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington -- currently use a 30 or 35-second shot clock for either boys or girls or both. The University Interscholastic League -- Texas' version of the IHSA -- has allowed for approved schools with shot clocks to host tournaments over the last two years.

USA Basketball and the NBA are both on board with the shot clock idea for high school-age competition. According to their March 2018 joint release, "the 24-second shot clock for the ninth-12th grade segment allows for more possessions for each team, better game flow and additional decision-making opportunities for players."

Richwoods boys coach William Smith and Farmington boys coach Jeff Otto are very much in favor of the idea of implementing a shot clock.

"I personally am in favor of the shot clock in high school in the coming years," Smith said. "Thirty-five seconds per possession brings a different sense of urgency to the game that we do not have currently. The strategy and coaching of the game will change drastically in the fourth quarter of a game, because it will be no more hold on to a six-point lead by extending possessions. And I think we will see less of the fouling strategy, as well, late in games."

Said Ott: "I am very much in favor (of a shot clock). ... I like the fast-paced style of basketball anyway and I think, from a fan perspective, they will be more enjoyable."

The cost of adding not one but two shot clocks comes with a pretty price tag.

Daktronics, a popular digital scoreboard company based in Brookings, S.D., offers 11 different shot clock models ranging in price from $2,500 to $15,000 per unit. That translates to $5,000 to $30,000 for a pair of shot clocks, plus the cost of any time maintenance and/or upkeep.

"I think the biggest issue that we would have would just be the initial cost of putting them in," Illinois Valley Central athletics director Dan Camp said. "It's one of those things, obviously, if the IHSA mandated it, you'd have to come up with the money, but I think that would probably the biggest issue for most schools."

Plus, adding a shot clock to the scorers table comes twofold -- teaching as well as paying an additional person. Payment for the shot clock keeper can range from an hourly rate to $25-$30 per game, Camp says.

Morton boys coach Matt Franks is on board with the idea too, but he and Ott both said the logistics any switch to a shot clock could be a difficult process in the early stages.

"The problem is the obvious cost to implement it, which most schools could afford, but you are going to have to hire a third or fourth official because you need someone educated who understands the game," Franks said. "At Chicago University, I remember watching a lot of games and the officials consistently had to stop it (shot clock) to reset it.

"For the big schools, it would be easier because you have more people to help. But for the smaller schools, it would be hard. The game of basketball will be fine, but I think the logistics would be hard."

IVC, for example, is in a situation where there are two different crews of three people working the scorers table at boys and girls games, respectively. Each of the individual roles are interchangeable.

"We'd probably have to find two or three people to go ahead and get trained on the shot clock," Camp said, "but I don't think that particular position would be a difficult one."

Camp sees just one very minor problem with adding the shot clock.

"(The scorer table) might be a little crowded, but if we have to, we'll just have to buy a new table, I guess," he said with a laugh.

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