The state of Alabama may be a step closer to having a shot clock for high school basketball games in the near future.
Earlier this week, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) voted to permit a 35-second clock beginning with the 2022-2023 season by state association adoption.
A proposal for a national rule mandating a shot clock, however, was not approved.
AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese, who is retiring this summer, said the Alabama association would begin exploring the possibility.
“That will be something that is up to the membership,” he said. “(Basketball director) Jamie (Lee) and I talked about it this week. We will discuss it with our coaches at the summer conference and then survey our membership to see what the interest in our schools is. That information will be taken to the October Central Board meeting and will be discussed then. I won’t be executive director at the time, so I have no idea if it will be an action item or not at that point.”
To adopt a shot clock, it would need to be formally approved as an action item by the Central Board. Savarese said, with similar issues in the past, if two-thirds of the membership favors the issue, the Board considers implementing it.
The NFHS stated that each state association may adopt a shot clock beginning in the 2022-23 season — according to guidelines outlined in the Basketball Rules Book — to encourage standardization among states. Guidelines include displaying two timepieces that are connected to a horn that is distinctive from the game-clock horn, and using an alternative timing device, such as a stopwatch at the scorer’s table, for a shot clock malfunction. The guidelines also allow for corrections to the shot clock only during the shot-clock period in which an error occurred and the officials have definite information relative to the mistake or malfunction.
AL.com surveyed more than 600 state basketball coaches about the potential of having a shot clock last summer. Most favored the prospect. Of 131 boys coaches who responded, 96 approved (73 percent), while 48 of 76 girls coaches (64 percent) also favored the idea.
“For me, it helps us a lot,” said Calhoun boys coach Ervin Starr. “We want to put up as many shots as we can get and use our energy on defense. That’s the kind of style we are used to playing. We welcome it. I think it will be great for the state of Alabama high school basketball.”
Huntsville boys coach Christian Schweers is also in favor of the idea.
“I’m pro for sure with a double exclamation point,” he said. “When you consider it, our level of basketball – NFHS in America – is the only level in the world that plays at a competitive rate that doesn’t have a shot clock.
“NBA, WNBA, men’s and women’s college basketball, every age group in the Olympics, AAU — they all have a shot clock. So, it’s like how in the world have we not had it? I think it’s a win for basketball. I think it will help grow basketball and force coaches and players to have to grow also.”
Most coaches opposed to a shot clock cite cost as the reason. Initial costs will be $2,000-plus to buy and install a shot clock and schools will also have to pay someone to run the clock.
“I certainly would like to see it, but I really don’t have a strong opinion,” said Spanish Fort boys coach Jimbo Tolbert, whose Toros finished as Class 6A runner-up in 2021. “In the past, I have been a little more outspoken about wanting it. As years have gone by, I can see both sides of it.
“Some smaller schools already struggle with having a clock keeper and now we are going to add a shot clock? Can you imagine that? It might be chaos at some places. You would have to have two people. There are advantages and disadvantages. We will adapt to whatever rule is in place.”
Schweers said he doesn’t think expense or manpower would be as big a hurdle as some might think.
“Every high school football team right now plays with a play clock,” he said. “I think that happened pretty smoothly. I do think you will run into some Mickey Mouse stuff at some schools, but to me that can be a part of the officials’ cost. Just pay them to do it.
“Ironically, when I got here to Huntsville, they already had shot clocks installed and I had them removed. That was three years ago and there was no reason to keep them. They weren’t compatible with our new scoreboard.”
The shot clock certainly would prevent outcomes like Parker’s 6-4 win over Carver earlier this year.
“A few years ago, we went to a tournament in Atlanta, and they had the shot clock as an experimental thing,” Mountain Brook boys coach Tyler Davis said. “It kept a good flow to the game. We didn’t have many scenarios where it got late in the shot clock. I like for Alabama basketball to be in the national news for positive things. Last year, we were on the national news for a 6-4 game. We have an opportunity to grow the game to another level.”
Two of Birmingham’s most successful girls basketball coaches also favor the idea.
“Our goal, in our program, is to prepare our players for college,” said Kristle Johnson, head coach at Class 7A state champ Hoover. “In college, they have a shot clock. I am definitely in favor and think it will make the game more exciting.”
Spain Park’s Mike Chase, whose team won the 2020 Class 7A title, agreed.
“I’m coaching competitive girls AAU this spring and summer with the 30-second shot clock,” he said. “The flow of the game is amazing. Switching defenses mid-possession is something we don’t have in the high school game. It forces players to have to think, adapt and react.
“Teams that have leads in games can’t sit on the ball. We played in Hoover with AHSAA officials calling games, and they did a great job with very little training, if any. There is no reason Alabama basketball shot not implement a shot clock.”
Jarvis Wilson, who just left Class 5A state girls champ Carver-Birmingham to take the job at Sparkman, said a shot clock will help everyone involved.
“Using the shot clock in high school will not only allow players to be prepared for the next level, it will also allow coaches the opportunity to enhance their strategies within game preparations for the next opponent,” he said. “This would be so beneficial to our athletes in the state.”