A shot clock is (probably) coming to Oregon high school basketball… what are the pros and cons?
By Bob Lundberg | Photo by Michele Bunch
Momentum is building to bring a high school basketball shot clock to Oregon.
Last spring, the National Federation of State High School Associations approved a new rule allowing states to adopt a 35-second clock starting in the 2022-23 season. Several states — including California and Washington — sidestepped NFHS rules long ago to add stopwatches, but the organization’s decision in 2021 fueled fire for stopwatch advocates in places like Oregon .
“We recently conducted a statewide survey of coaches at all levels, and there was a clear majority who voted to put a stopwatch in place,” the coach said. daughters of South Medford, Tom Cole. “I personally feel like this reflects the evolution of the game at the highest college level and beyond. Being a team that travels a lot, we’re surrounded by states that also use the shot clock. So this also looks like a good geographic fit.
Lake Oswego boys coach Marshall Cho added, “When we go to California or Washington, we play with a shot clock. For us to be late to the west coast, I think it hurts our kids in the long run.
Both California and Washington implemented a shot clock for women’s basketball in the 1970s. California added one for boys in 1996; Washington did the same in 2009.
The Oregon School Activities Association Board of Directors tabled a chronometer proposal without a vote at its May meeting, but there is a growing sense among coaches that the state will adopt one for the 2023-24 season. The next OSAA board meeting is scheduled for July 18.
“A shot clock has been discussed in the past, but never to the point where the board would actually vote on it,” said West Albany boys coach Derek Duman, president of the Oregon Basketball Coaches Association. “The council tabled it, but it looks like there will be a vote or a decision soon.”
At the end of the 2021-22 basketball season, the OBCA conducted a survey of coaches on a variety of topics, including a shot clock. The question was formulated: “Are you in favor of the implementation of a shot clock?” with the possible answers of “yes”, “no” or “no preference”.
Of the 297 coaches who responded, 74.1% voted “yes”. “No” received 16.5% of the tally while 9.4% voted “no preference”. The survey also asked coaches to rank issues according to their level of importance, and a shot clock topped the list of 160 respondents (53.9%).
“One of the reasons we really started advocating for a shot clock is not because of how any of our board members feel, but because our coaches overwhelmingly support him,” Duman said. “Seventy-four percent is very high, especially when you think about the amount of things coaches disagree on. The other thing I found interesting was the vote at 10% no preference This swings both ways, but it tells me that 84% of coaches either want a shot clock or don’t care.
While the majority of coaches are in favor of modernization, there are dissenting voices in the room. Toledo boys coach Bart Rothenberger is one of them.
Rothenberger, a seasoned veteran with more than 20 years of experience as a head coach, worries about the expense of adding shot clocks to gyms — initial costs range between $2,000 and $20,000 depending on several factors – and the search for volunteers to make them work. But just as important, Rothenberger wants to know what’s wrong with the current state of Oregon high school basketball.
“I’m an old man, and we old people feel like this is going to hurt basketball,” said Rothenberger, who views the shot clock issue as a cross-generational disagreement. “I heard it would remove the stalls, but I backed up and tried to see how many people were stalling, and you really don’t see it for more than 30 seconds. What you see are well-trained teams who work the ball and look for a good shot; that’s good training and what we do.
The Crescent Valley girls did exactly what Rothenberger describes in the 5A State Championship game. Springfield used a 1-3-1 zone for most of the game, and the Raiders patiently passed the ball to find the best shot possible. The strategy worked to perfection as Crescent Valley won 50-39 behind 31 points from Gabby Bland, who finished 7 of 10 from three points.
Raiders coach Eric Gower, who supports adding a shot clock, felt his team was too passive at times during the season, including in the state championship game. He believes a shot clock would force his naturally patient group of players to be more aggressive on the offensive end.
“Overall, I just think it’ll be good for basketball to get the game up and down a bit more,” Gower said. “There will of course be an adjustment period, but I think once the kids get used to it it will be for the best.”
In Girls’ 6A semi-finals, Barlow held on for a narrow 44-42 win over South Medford despite going more than six minutes into the fourth quarter without a field goal attempt. The stall didn’t work as South Medford overcame a 15-point deficit to tie the score late, but the Bruins survived to secure the first final appearance in program history.
“You can’t criticize the other team for their strategy, because that’s allowed,” said Cole, who also referred to the infamous 2012 5A title game between Willamette and Springfield. The Millers, led by national No. 1 rookie and future Tennessee star Mercedes Russell, won 16-7 as Willamette rolled out a total stall.
“It’s a particular strategy, Barlow has done very well and it takes a certain talent to do it, it really is. … Now do I think it’s as exciting as a match of basketball? No, I don’t.
Rothenberger sees nothing wrong with a team slowing down to protect a fourth-quarter advantage.
“We worked three and a half quarters to get a 10-point lead, so now we don’t have a chance to get the ball out and get them out and keep us?” said Rothenberger, who led 1A Mohawk to four state titles between 2002 and 2008. “It’s called practice, and to me, it’s taking practice out of the game. But they think all that is good because it speeds up the tempo and gives a team that is down 10 a chance to come back.
“These young coaches were brought up in the days of AAU basketball, and AAU basketball is 1-on-1, 1-on-5. Same with the NBA. If you watch the playoffs, it’s all screen and roll. We don’t see many attacks and we certainly don’t see defense. I mean, just look at the Golden State Warriors – they gave up (132) points the other night.
Despite his complaints, Rothenberger is resigned to the fact that a shot clock is coming. While the majority of 2A coaches voted against, 1A coaches overwhelmingly support the addition of a shot clock; Duman said more than 90% of 6A and 5A coaches surveyed want a shot clock.
Cho, who expressed empathy for the financial and personnel challenges a shot clock would have on small schools, is excited about the potential off-game impacts of a shot clock.
“It would change the way we manage our practices, our offenses, our defenses,” Cho said. “Aesthetically for the general public, it won’t be as dramatic as they think. There are many things invisible to the common eye that the shot clock will bring.
As a closing argument, Rothenberger noted that a shot clock will favor the better and more talented team. Extra possessions mean more scoring opportunities, and Rothenberger thinks that will lead to bigger blowouts.
But Rothenberger and Cho agree on one thing: the actual product in the field will remain largely the same with or without a stopwatch.
“Is it really going to change that much? Honestly, probably not,” Rothenberger said. “So I’m just going to bite the bullet and hope my guys are more athletic than theirs.”