Is shot clock a concept that's run out of time?

On High Schools

High schools

March 12, 2006|By MILTON KENT

COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK-- --It doesn't take long, a few seconds really, a far shorter time than it takes for a team to move the ball upcourt and hoist a shot, to figure out how Earl Hawkins feels about the talk of bringing a shot clock to Maryland public school boys basketball.

"I've heard about it and it's the worst thing that could ever happen," Hawkins, the Prince George's County school system's athletic director, said during a break at this weekend's state basketball tournament.

Hawkins' opinion is especially significant in Maryland because he is also the chairman of the boys basketball committee for the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, where such an idea would get its first hearing.

The idea has been batted about in recent years but got deeper discussion after Mervo held the ball for 60 to 90 seconds per possession during its 3A North regional final win over Walbrook. The tables were turned on Mervo in Thursday's state semifinal, as Lackey froze the ball to strengthen its front-line advantage over the Mustangs.

"It's funny that you ask because on the way to the [Walbrook] game, my assistant asked me, `When does the shot clock come in, like 2007 or something like that?' " Mervo coach Daryl Wade said last week. "I said, `I don't care. We don't have it tonight. It doesn't matter tonight.' "

Hawkins, who coached former Maryland All-American Walt Williams at Crossland, says coaches should be able to use the stall tactic to equalize the game when there are wide talent disparities between the teams, even if the game appears dreary to fans and the media.

"If that's the advantage that your team has, that coach should have the right to do that," Hawkins said. "High school students need to understand what's important: the total team concept. It's the worst thing I could ever think of, to have students running down and trying to run an offense for 25 seconds and then having to throw up a bad shot. I don't think college coaches want that."

According to The Indianapolis Star, seven states use a shot clock in high school basketball. California, New York, North Dakota and Rhode Island have clocks for boys (35 seconds) and girls (30 seconds). In Massachusetts, the shot clock is set at 30 seconds per possession for boys and girls.

Washington and Maryland have shot clocks for girls set at 30 seconds, and in Hawkins' opinion, that's a mistake that should be corrected.

"Well, the shot clock came in because the play was so bad," Hawkins said. "I'm an advocate now that the girls don't need it. They're scoring a ton of points. In many cases, you see these lopsided blowouts because they have to shoot every 30 seconds. It just makes no sense for teams to have to shoot the ball if you don't have the horses.

"You see these high school teams that have a 6-foot girl and she dominates the whole game. The other team may have guards, but they have to shoot the ball. If they could stall, then they'd have a chance to win. You wouldn't see these huge, lopsided scores. I think the girls game has progressed so far that they don't need it, either."

Last year, two committees of the National Federation of State High School Associations, the amalgam of high school athletic associations, voted to allow states to decide on their own whether to add a clock. States, like Maryland, that play with a clock, currently cannot sit on the rules committee.

The measure failed in a vote of the governing board, but the rules committee will meet again next month, and according to Ned Sparks, the MPSSAA's executive director, it might pass, leaving states to decide whether to adopt and if so, what time to use.

A major objection from many states to adding a clock is the cost, but that question is obviously moot in Maryland because schools already have a clock for girls basketball.

But even if those issues went away, Hawkins said he would be decidedly against a clock for an essential reason: Adding one would take some of the teaching away from coaching.

"I just can't see high school coaches who are sincere about teaching the game wanting it [a shot clock]," Hawkins said. "You want to teach kids to play. When you get kids in the ninth grade, half of them don't know how to play. Many systems don't have middle school sports or junior high sports, so when do they get their first opportunity to play organized, disciplined basketball? That's in ninth grade."

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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