Utah high school basketball will finally embrace the shot clock

The shot clock, which has been the subject of much debate in the state for years, will be added for both boys and girls.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Farmington's Abigail Ferrell puts up a one-handed go-ahead shot in the final seconds as Springville faces Farmington High School in the 5A girls basketball state championship game, in Taylorsville on Saturday, March 6, 2021.

High school basketball will look a little different in Utah starting in the 2022-23 season.

The Utah High School Activities Association on Thursday voted to implement a 35-second shot clock for boys’ and girls’ high school basketball, ending a debate that has gone on for years in the state.

The clock will be added to all varsity-level teams in Utah. Sub-varsity teams will have the option of implementing the shot clock.

Matthew Barnes, who coaches boys’ basketball at Olympus High and is also the president of the Utah Basketball Coaches Association, said that he doesn’t anticipate the addition of a shot will change the game overall, but will eliminate a bugaboo of basketball in Utah: stalling.

“I think where it’s going to change the most is end of quarters, or the fourth quarter,” Barnes said. “The biggest knock on Utah basketball is when you get in the fourth quarter, a four- or six-point lead is really a 10- or 12-point lead because a lot of coaches are going to stall and work the clock and then make you foul them and it’s kind of a free throw contest. So now, you’re going to have to play.”

Last May, the National Federation of High Schools passed a rule change that allowed basketball programs to implement a shot clock if they wished starting in the 2022-23 season. The UHSAA subsequently formed a committee to ascertain how many schools would be in favor of adding a shot clock in Utah.

The change makes Utah the 10th state that uses a shot clock in high school basketball. The others already using it are California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington. Arkansas will fully implement a shot clock in the 2022-23 season after conducting a yearlong experiment.

“We are very excited and are thankful those making this decision have allowed this to move forward,” Lone Peak boys’ basketball coach Rob Ross told The Tribune in a text message.

High school basketball programs have advocated for the addition of a shot clock for several years. Boys and girls alike have stories about opposing teams stalling for several minutes and even entire quarters during big games. Nearly three years ago, the notion of Utah getting a shot clock seemed far-fetched unless something was done at the national level.

Critics of the shot clock have mainly said implementing one would be cost-prohibitive to smaller schools and it would take having to train and pay extra people for every boys’ and girls’ game. Barnes said there’s still come concern about that, but seemed confident in that matter getting resolved.

“Every district is different on how they’ll handle that and do that,” Barnes said. “But I think as they looked at it, it’s very doable, it’s very feasible. They’ll find a way to make it happen. ... It’s a little bit of a concern, but I think the districts and the people on board were thinking that was not something that could hold it up and not move forward.”