Prep basketball: Shot clock or no shot clock? That is the question
The boos rained down at the Dee Events Center. Most fans had no idea how to process the moment last March 1 when Brighton's Bryce Callahan stood in front of center court on the campus of Weber State University and simply held the ball. Staring at him and waiting were Lone Peak stars Nick Emery, TJ Haws and Eric Mika.
It was a seven-minute stall implemented in hopes that the Bengals would have a shot at puncturing the immortality of last year's Lone Peak team. It didn't work, as the Knights rolled past Brighton in the second half, but it was a watershed moment for those advocating implementing a shot clock in high school basketball.
On Feb. 5, another stall took place, putting a seize in the fourth quarter between Wasatch Academy and South Sevier, two of the premier programs in 2A boys' basketball. Neither team scored a point in the entire fourth quarter and the Tigers' 17-point advantage entering the fourth, stayed that way.
It again heightened the fervor around the talks of moving to a shot clock in Utah high school hoops, in no small part thanks to the timing.
The Brighton stall took place in a Class 5A semifinal game. This year's 4A and 5A boys' basketball tournaments get underway Monday and Tuesday, respectively, at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center. Lone Peak, Alta and Davis are considered favorites in 5A, while Bountiful, Roy and Orem are some of the top teams in 4A.
Still, a potential move to the shot clock its not cut and dry.
Kevin Dustin, associate director for the Utah High School Activities Association said the shot clock isn't mandated by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), so if Utah moved to a shot clock, it would lose its voting privileges on the national basketball rules committee. The state would also lose representation on the committee. States who have adopted the shot clock are California, Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
"Basically," said Dustin, who represents a section of West Coast states on the NFHS board, "you lose your voice."
The idea of the shot clock is back on the national agenda this year when the national committee reconvenes in April. Dustin said when the UHSAA most recently polled state basketball coaches on if they'd be in favor of the move, those who responded were in support, but added, "it's not overwhelming."
Quincy Lewis won't forget that afternoon in Ogden, nor will he forget those seven minutes of no basketball. But the Lone Peak coach said anybody who holds the ball is well within the rules of the game, adding there's no complaints that can stick until the rules are changed.
"I'd be guilty as anyone of knocking a minute or two off at the end of the game," Lewis said, "but I think there's no question that [a shot clock] would be beneficial to the game here in Utah. I think some people look at it maybe think it will turn the game into a run-and-gun and no discipline, but having coached in college and known how long 35 seconds is, in a lot of ways you're rewarding a good defense for playing good defense."
Lewis and Wasatch Academy coach Geno Morgan said a move to the shot clock would be tricky, but it would serve the transition to players playing in college to be much smoother than it is now.
"It's a whole different game," said Morgan, who was an assistant coach at Emory University in Atlanta. "The amount of pressure it puts on players and coaches is much different. As a college assistant, we had to have shot-clock plays. At the high school level, I think [a shot clock] is needed to stop the stalling and different things like that; on the other hand, it's not going to be easy."
As UHSAA executive director Rob Cuff explains, a move to a shot clock isn't a simple move for the varsity levels. The question then becomes if it be a necessary at the freshman and junior varsity levels as well, which some could take issue with if high school hoops come in different formats.
Same goes for if each classification has the funds or capabilities to pay yet another game-day operator.
"It also creates another opportunity for mistakes," said Cuff, former basketball coach at Mountain View High School. "I like the way it is now, not that it won't ever change. Less mistakes happen, and I think that's better for the game."
Class 4A/5A boys' basketball tournaments
At the Huntsman Center
First round, Monday
• Spanish Fork vs. Kearns, 9:30 a.m.
• Box Elder vs. Orem, 11:10 a.m.
• Skyline vs. Roy, 12:50 p.m.
• Judge vs. Springville, 2:30 p.m.
• Olympus vs. Sky View, 4:10 p.m.
• Highland vs. Timpview, 5:50 p.m.
• Provo vs. Bountiful, 7:30 p.m.
• Logan vs. Mountain View, 9:10 p.m.
First round, Tuesday
• West vs. Bingham, 9:30 a.m.
• Syracuse vs. Lone Peak, 11:10 a.m.
• Riverton/Herriman vs. Davis, 12:50 p.m.
• Copper Hills vs. Hunter, 2:30 p.m.
• Am Fork vs. Viewmont, 4:10 p.m.
• Brighton vs. Taylorsville, 5:50 p.m.
• Hillcrest vs. Alta, 7:30 p.m.
• Layton vs. Pleasant Grove, 9:10 p.m.