It’s a familiar situation.
A high school basketball team gets a little bit of a lead late, and the game comes screeching to a standstill.
The players on the team that is ahead slow down, pass the ball around and try to almost will the game clock to tick down more quickly.
The opposing coach — joined by a chorus from the crowd — screams “Foul!”
Eventually, someone complies. Free throws are shot. Rinse, repeat.
That part of the game isn’t completely gone now, but, noticeably, it has lessened.
This season, the Georgia High School Association began requiring a 35-second shot clock for varsity basketball games. It is the conclusion of a three-year phase-in cycle.
When the game clock gets too late, teams still have to foul to have an opportunity to get the ball back. But gone are the days when a team could use the four-corners, pass-it-around offense midway through the fourth quarter.
“It does come into play at the end of the game. It takes the stall game out,” Dalton High School head coach Ryan Scoggins said. “You realize if you defend for 35 seconds you’re going to get the ball back.”
That’s one of the most noticeable changes brought on by the shot clock through the early part of the season.
The regular flow of the game hasn’t changed a whole lot, but that’s perhaps because coaches have had to prepare players to be more intentional with their offensive attack.
“You talk to the guys about what you’re going to do in each section of the shot clock,” Scoggins said. “This is what we’re going to do in the first 10 seconds, and if you don’t get that, you need to get in a good set to get a quality shot.”
Or, perhaps more likely, it’s because 35 seconds is a long time for a basketball possession.
“Most high school boys, it doesn’t take 35 seconds to get a shot off,” Scoggins said. “No one is running a Princeton-style offense where they try to grind it out. But I think it helps the game and it’s good to see, especially for the guys that want to go on and play in college.”
The current shot clock for college is 30 seconds per possession. It was bumped down from 35 seconds in 2015 after starting out at 45 seconds when it was implemented in 1985 by the NCAA.
The NBA has been using a 24-second shot clock since 1954.
If the highest levels of basketball use a shot clock, why not start it in high school?
The 35-second shot clock feels about right for the high school level given its impact so far this season. It’s not too long to allow for stall-ball or to make defending an entire possession too taxing, but it’s also not brief enough to force an abundance of late-clock situations that necessitate a player taking up “hero ball” to try and get a shot off after an offensive set breaks down.
Instead, it subtly enforces the relatively fast-paced flow that marks well-played basketball.
One more obvious benefit through about a month of play: 10-second violations are much easier to recognize — for fans, coaches, players and referees.
With the prevalence of the full-court press at the high school level and only 10 seconds for the offense to cross half court, the giant ticking clock situated above the goal takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. When that clock hits 25, the whistle will be blown.
There have been some hiccups.
Whistles have sounded out mid-possession with either a misbehaving shot clock or an operator forgetting to reset it, but those are issues that will get ironed out as use of the shot clock continues.
That illuminated rectangle with its ever-ticking numbers has been a welcome sight in high school basketball gyms.
Daniel Mayes is the sports editor for the Dalton Daily Citizen. Write to him at email@example.com.
It’s a familiar situation.