At the time of this writing, the WIAA recently announced that boys and girls varsity basketball will have an operating shot clock by the time the 2019-2020 season starts. It’s something that many people who have followed the scene for years believed would never happen. And apart from the logistical changes that are set to soon arrive across the state, the change marks a culture shift in the sport that has finally ebbed down from the pro level across America and spread to even the most rural communities of the Badger State. The high school game is evolving to more of an extension of AAU ball for players destined for the next level, and naturally, some are concerned with the change.
Early opinion on this change has been divided. A Wissports.net poll recently administered showed a fairly even split on the subject, with 52 percent in favor and 48 opposed. The common argument for those who are against the change is the cost of installation and operation of the shot clocks. And this argument does merit some attention.
Consider the fact that many small schools across Wisconsin sometimes struggle just find knowledgeable individuals to run the scoreboard. Are we to believe that a school district like Bangor has the financial resources to do the same things that, say, Madison or Milwaukee can? Will the constant repairs, operator compensation, and necessary updates result in yet another department to suffer at the hands of athletics? The argument here is that, even though the initial costs don’t jump out and raise any eyebrows, it could provide problems down the road.
Ultimately, in my HUMBLE OPINION (I feel it necessary to emphasize this point), the greatest possible consequence from a shot clock in high school basketball will be a widening gap between competitive and struggling programs. The teams that run fast-paced, high intensity fast-break offenses will benefit from being able to work the floor the way they want, and then only having to wait 35 seconds on the defensive end for the other team to throw up a shot. Programs like those run by Todd Fergot at Central or Dave Donarski at Aquinas will reap the rewards of a game now more focused on taking quicker shots, while teams with drawn-out offenses will initially struggle to build solid shooters.
That all being said, from my vantage point, I could see this coming from a mile away. I know that players and coaches are growing tired of the tried-and-true “Wisconsin Swing” offense that has permeated the game for decades in this state. Young, impressionable high school athletes want to emulate the players they see on TV, which has always been the case, and right now the 3-pointer is more popular than ever. It’s been said that chicks dig the long ball, but I highly doubt you’ll hear someone say “Chicks dig the guy who passes 10 times, then dishes it inside to the four who lays it in for a tough two”.
In the end, over the next decade or so, the playing field should level out as teams adapt and change. I’m sure when the three-point arc was first introduced, the outcries of : “TOO MUCH CHANGE!!!” or “THEY’RE TRYING TO TAKE TOUGHNESS OUT OF THE GAME!!!” were quite rampant. And, just are surely, someday when they implement a four-point line or have an exhibition game on the Moon or something, the calls will ring strong once again.
I guess the bottom line is, the shot clock is on its way, and if you don’t like it, the clock’s ticking on old-school basketball, and it’s gotta hit zero at some point.
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