Time’s up: High School hoops needs the shot clock

Published 10:04 pm Thursday, January 15, 2009

By Staff
Commentary By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
It’s time to put the bounce back in high school basketball.
There have been countless times already this season when I’ve sat on the hard wood bleachers and watched painfully as possessions dragged on past the minute mark.
Enough already. I can’t take this boredom. Are you guys trying to run me out of here?
No, coaches are just trying to win basketball games within the rules of the game. If slowing down the tempo can win you a ball game, then so be it. After all, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association is allowing it.
But this is America. Land of the fast-paced and high-scoring. We want to see points on the scoreboard, and lots of them.
So, let’s install the shot clock in high school basketball and bring back the days when gymnasiums were standing room only.
It’s no secret that attendance at high school basketball games — and most high school sporting events — has rapidly declined. But let’s bring back the fans. Let’s see the shot clock in high school hoops.
It’s been proven that the shot clock has helped speed up the pace of the game and, in turn, helped increase scoring.
In 1954, Danny Biasone, the owner of the Syracuse Nationals of the NBA, decided he had to help preserve the pureness of the pro game by introducing a shot clock.
Before the clock, a concern had developed around the league about the flow of the game. It became common place for a pro team to sit on the ball with the lead. They’d dribble it around for four or five minutes, make a few passes here and there, and chew the remaining minutes off the clock.
While the stall was certainly effective in securing victories, Biasone noticed the decline in fan interest after the Fort Wayne Pistons’ infamous 19-18 victory over the Minneapolis Lakers on Nov. 22, 1950.
To keep the ball out of Lakers star George Mikan’s hands, Fort Wayne coach Murray Mendhall employed a stall tactic that was greeted by a chorus of boos. Fans became restless and irate. They demanded Mendhall and the Pistons quit hording the ball. But to the dismay of the Lakers fans, Mendhall’s stall worked out, and the Pistons were victorious in the lowest scoring game in league history.
A few weeks later, the Rochester Royals and Indianapolis Olympians squared off in a five-overtime game with only one shot in each overtime.
Biasone decided something needed to be done.
There had to be a way to make basketball more appealing to the fans.
Thus in October of 1954, the shot clock was born
The new 24-second clock, coupled with some rule changes concerning fouls, immediately revolutionized NBA basketball. In the last pre-clock season, teams averaged 79 points per game. In the first year with the clock in 1954-55, the average was up to 93 points; by the fourth year (1957-58), it was 107 points.
Fans trickled back into the once near-empty arenas. Television contracts emerged. And thus, Biasone was credited with saving the NBA.
Nearly thirty years later college basketball began to adopt the shot clock, mainly as a combatant to North Carolina coach Dean Smith’s “Four Corner’s Offense.”
Smith’s “Four Corner’s Offense” was a stalling tactic that he often went to when his team was ahead by a narrow margin in the second half.
Four Tar Heels would head to the four corner’s of the offensive zone, while the other would seek to get to the middle of the court and dribble the ball. The Tar Heels would seek to score, but only on extremely safe shots. For the most part, it was a gambit used to kill the clock.
After dealing with Smith’s tactics for more than a decade, the final straw for Atlantic Coast Conference fans came in the nationally televised1982 ACC Championship Game between North Carolina and Virginia.
Nursing a small lead in the second half, Smith went to the four corners strategy to keep the ball for out of Virginia star Ralph Sampson’s hands. For nearly 12 minutes, UNC dribbled the ball and tossed it around in their own offensive zone. Meanwhile fans booed and became irate. They’d come to see offensive stars like Sampson, Michael Jordan and James Worthy. Not this hogwash.
Though the strategy paid off for the Heels as they defeated the Cavaliers, 47-45 to win the ACC title, it sparked anger throughout college basketball.
The following year, the ACC and several other conferences introduced the 45-second shot clock. By 1985, the entire NCAA followed suit and by 1993 the clock would be lowered to 35 seconds to increase the pace even more.
The scoring average increased by nearly 17 ppg in 1985.
Nowadays, NCAA basketball and the NBA are as popular as ever. The NBA has set all-time attendance records in two of the last three seasons, while the NCAA reported that in 2007 a record 27.7 million fans attended Division I men’s basketball games.
See, not only does the shot clock increase scoring, it also increases attendance.
The only argument that most high school athletic associations have for not implementing the shot clock is cost. They say it’s just not right to ask high schools to dish out five thousand dollars in these tough economic times.
Put in the shot clock, and in three years time, they’ll pay for themselves through gate revenue. You bring in the clock, and I’ll bet you bring back the fans.