Georgia recently became the ninth state in the United States to add a shot clock to high school basketball, sparking debate across the country. 

Locally, coaches have made their voices heard over adding a shot clock to high school basketball in Tennessee. 

The Basketball Coaches Association of Tennessee recently put a poll on Twitter asking their 1,203 followers if they would be for or against a shot clock. In just three days, the survey tallied 410 votes, with 79% (324) being in favor of a shot clock.

The talks that surround the addition are nothing new, but the voices are becoming louder. 

Would the addition of a 30-second shot clock be beneficial to the game in Tennessee? 

Many coaches believe so, but the answer could be more complicated than that. 

Adding a shot clock goes much deeper than putting up a clock on the top of the baskets or on a wall. 

Logistically, how will it work? We would like to think every school is on a level playing field, but that is simply not true. Whether it be a talent gap, monetary issues or community support, assuming every school can afford this move is an oversight.  

Once two clocks are paid for, whether on the school budget or through local donations, the question turns to: who will operate the shot clock? Who will train that person or persons, and who will teach the officials? 

The National High School Federation currently does not suggest or mandate that states use a shot clock. If the TSSAA had a shot clock without permission from the NFHS, there could be no Tennessee representative allowed on the NFHS basketball rules committee, per the national federation’s rules. 

Is the NFHS suggesting high school basketball is a better product than college or the NBA? I think the betterment and progression of the game would call for a 30-second shot clock. 

What officials are saying 

One of the biggest questions surrounding the implementation of the shot clock is who will train the officials.

For referee Jason Grainger, the answer is simple: spend more time training and bring in guys who have refereed college games to help. 

“There are many high school guys in Tennessee that work the college game, so you would bring those guys in who know what to look for,” he said. “The rules are not all that difficult, just make it one reset no matter what happens for the sake of the referee and the person keeping the clock.”

A shot clock violation can become complicated once you get to the college or NBA game, but it doesn’t have to be complicated in high school. 

“Keep the training simple: if it hits the rim reset the clock,” Grainger continued. “I always tell the clock keepers at each game, when in doubt let it run. It is easier for us to put time back on than deduct time on a rest that should have occurred. We need to train our refs better. We need to train them to control both the clock and the game, and that starts at the top.” 

Resetting the clock 

Reset the shot clock when there is a definite change of possession, defensive foul or an attempted field goal hits the rim and is recovered by the offensive team.

“I’m a fan of it,” Grainger said. “I think it keeps teams honest in a lot of ways. When you have a matchup between two teams and one is superior to the other, you will see the less talented team pack into a zone and hope the other side will not shoot them out of it. When the more superior or athletic team sees this, they will go into four corners and wait for the other team to go into a man defense. The shot clock would neutralize that and allow teams to play basketball. It feels like you take away from the game when you see teams do those things. As a purist and someone who loves the game, you say this isn’t basketball.

“30 seconds is ideal,” Grainger continued. “You want to see teams work the offense and develop.” 

The theory of adding the shot clock is simple, but Grainger admits there are roadblocks to getting the rule passed.

“I have shown up to high school games and seen teams pull kids out of the stands to run the clock,” he said. “Money and running the clock will be the biggest (hurdles).”

Experimenting with a shot clock 

Adding a shot clock to the game is not a simple task. Phasing in the shot clock could be the best way to see if teams, coaches and officials can get on board with the rule change. 

A three-year, phase-in plan, just as Georgia is doing, would be the best way.

Instead of adding the shot clock to every game across the state in the first year, the TSSAA should add a shot clock to summer games only and then assess the progression at the end of the summer. 

If everyone agrees we are on the right road, the TSSAA can move to a summer and mid-season tournament only shot clock for the second year.

For example, a shot clock would be used in the summer and then be put on hold until teams go to their respective holiday tournaments, where a shot clock would be used. 

This scenario would allow teams to get adjusted to the shot clock while playing in a game that doesn’t matter in the district standings. 

Once established and the shot clock moves smoothly, the third year is when the TSSAA would implement the shot clock statewide across all games.

This timeline would give everyone involved enough time to be trained and raise funds to afford the shot clocks. 

What coaches are saying 

Below are the opinions of six boys and girls basketball coaches from around the Midstate:

“We need to emulate the game at the college level as much as we can. It will help those who go to the next level, which makes the game more exciting. It would make coaches and players work harder and strategize more. I hope Tennessee follows because I think it is a great move for high school basketball.” - White House Heritage boys basketball coach Carl Miller.

“I think it would be good for the game of high school basketball. It would make games more exciting for the fans and add a strategic piece for teams and coaches to implement. If you are looking at (arguing) against it, I think the better team will win more often than not. It will take out the ability to slow the game down.” - Station Camp boys basketball coach Seth Massey. 

“The game is changing. The game is played faster these days. I like my teams to play fast as long as we are under control and taking good shots. I think the kids would enjoy the game with a shot clock. It will force the players to move without the ball. Colleges have shot clocks, so it better prepares players for the next level. I know that is a small percentage overall, but it would help. It would be more exciting for fans to watch opposed to stalling. I was not a fan of it when the conversations first started because there is something to teach players when it comes to controlling and managing the clock. I am not a big fan of change, but a shot clock would be a welcome change, in my opinion.” - White House boys basketball coach Caleb Cook. 

“There are various angles to look at when looking at the shot clock. For me, I am a fan. We pride ourselves on defense, and I think we can do that for 30-35 seconds and force you into an awful shot, which benefits us. It is an adjustment for everyone, but I think if you phase it in, it would be a good thing.” - Westmoreland girls basketball coach E.J. Perry. 

“I see the pros and cons of it. The cons outweigh the pros, but being a defensive coach, I would like to see it because it would force our opponent into bad shots late. I think you have to consider a human error when thinking about this. If you look at the NCAA, they have to reset the clock and have malfunctions in every game. Another problem is getting the right keeper to do it, and that is a hard responsibility. It’s hard enough to find a regular clock keeper. I think the cost is a big factor - where does that fall? Does it fall on the school? Boosters? Those are all issues that need answers. It would be excellent for fans, and I do think if we did it, the phase-in plan would be the best way to bring it in. I also believe it would help in player development.” - Green Hill girls basketball coach Cherie Abner. 

“I am opposed to it. I think it is one more thing for officials to keep track of, and I think there is enough to watch and enough missed on the floor as is. I think the added challenge for them would be a big issue. Who will operate the clock? You must have someone capable and trustworthy to do that, and that is a difficult task. I think it also takes a strategic element out of the game. Managing the clock is something that can help the underdogs manage and make the games more competitive. I don’t think it would be overall health for the game of high school basketball.” - Mt. Juliet Christian Academy boys basketball coach Paul Christensen. 

Shot clock addition falls on coaches

For Watertown boys basketball coach Matt Bradshaw, the onus falls on the state's coaches to get this done. 

“Until basketball coaches start putting ourselves out there like football coaches do, nothing will happen,” he said. “As coaches, we have allowed ourselves to become pigeon-holed on issues that are hurting our sport. Football has no problem paying a guy to run the 45-second clock, so why can’t we find someone? I don’t buy that one bit. We are handicapping ourselves. 

“Coaches do not want to step out and stand for something. Basketball coaches tend to rely on the football coaches to get stuff done at the TSSAA level. We are one of the last associations to have a regulated collegiate coaching box, and it’s the same with the shot clock.” 

Who uses a shot clock?

Currently nine states and Washington, D.C. use a high school shot clock, according to the National Federation of State High School Association. Below is the list: 

California: Girls use a 30-second clock; boys use a 35-second clock.

Georgia: Boys/Girls use a 30-second clock.

Maryland: Boys/Girls use a 30-second clock.

Massachusetts: Boys/Girls use a 30-second clock.

New York: Girls use a 35-second clock; boys use a 30-second clock.

North Dakota: Boys/Girls use a 35-second clock.

Rhode Island: Girls use a 30-second clock; boys use a 35 second clock.

South Dakota: Boys/Girls use a 35-second clock.

Washington: Girls use a 30-second clock; boys use a 35-second clock.

Washington, D.C.: Girls use a 30-second clock; boys use a 35-second clock.

It’s a matter of when, not if, the high school shot clock becomes prevalent across the United States. Does Tennessee and the TSSAA want to be at the forefront of the move?

The clock is ticking to do so.

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