Column: Colorado high school basketball needs a shot clock
The Aspen Times
The time is now. Colorado high school basketball needs a shot clock. And a mercy rule. For girls and boys basketball.
Because a shot clock would improve Colorado high school basketball immeasurable — along with a mercy rule.
A shot clock would help bring Colorado prep players into the modern age of basketball.
“It’s a different time now,” said longtime Colorado high school coach Steve Ketchum, the former Aspen High School head boys coach currently coaching at Ponderosa High School in Parker. “Everything is going the way of the NBA and international games.”
Ketchum said he used to be “old school” when it came to the shot clock and even the 3-point shot.
But not anymore.
“People want to see excitement. Who wants to see a game where the weaker team just holds the ball?” Ketchum said. “The rest of the world … uses a shot clock.”
And a shot clock would help basketball in middle school and high school just as it has become a part of the game at the college level and above, according to Ketchum, a veteran of more than 25 seasons of high school basketball in Colorado and Missouri (and Germany).
A shot clock forces a team to take offensive action immediately.
That’s where the players develop faster with a shot clock when offensive action is mandated within 35 seconds or 30 seconds on each possession.
“I would love a shot clock,” said Basalt High School head boys coach Danny Martinez, who led the Longhorns into the Class 3A Regionals this season. “It would put more points on the board.”
He said a shot clock also adds a strategic element to close games.
“There are times you know you’ll get the ball back (because of the shot clock),” Martinez said. “I think it would be good.”
Eight states currently have a shot-clock rule for girls high school basketball.
Seven of those states also have a shot clock for boys basketball.
California, for example, has a 30-second shot clock for girls and a 35-second shot clock for boys.
Washington state has the same shot-clock times, which are the most common.
Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island and South Dakota have shot clocks for girls and boys.
Maryland also has a 30-second shot clock for girls but no shot clock for boys — yet.
Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times, who has covered prep sports for years, said the California high school shot clocks have created excitement and helped both girls and boys basketball.
Coaches and players are used to the shot clocks, which first appeared in California in the early 2000s.
In concert with the California mercy rule (40-point lead in the fourth quarter forces a running clock), big blowout scores have been reduced, according to Sondheimer.
But the mercy rule is critical because of the ebb and flow of talented players that can create horrendous mismatches between schools.
Witness the Moffat County girls basketball team this season.
The Bulldogs, who advanced to the Elite Eight of Class 3A basketball, won several games by extreme margins this year— 62-16, 74-24, 66-20 and even 88-12 in the first round of the state playoffs. A mercy rule clearly would have improved the basketball experience for girls on both sides of an 88-12 score.
Colorado has mercy rules in place for all major high school team sports except basketball.
Area basketball officials, in an informal poll this season, also endorse a mercy rule and a shot clock for Colorado prep basketball.
The big blowouts, they said, are difficult to officiate and counterproductive to both teams.
And, they agreed, a shot clock would force Colorado prep players to get offensive in a hurry.
Schools would need an additional person at the scorer’s table to manage the shot clock along with the three game officials.
In California, many schools use a student with a basketball background to handle the shot clock. When play reaches postseason, the schools pay for an additional adult timekeeper to run the shot clock.
A small investment for a big basketball return.
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Basalt volleyball improved to 8-4 overall after a 3-0 sweep of Grand Valley on Saturday. BHS, which started the season 0-3, had won seven straight before a 3-2 loss to Cedaredge on Friday. The Longhorns next play Tuesday in Aspen.