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Wisconsin will soon be on the clock

WIAA approves 35-second shot clock for varsity basketball starting in 2019-20

Wisconsin will soon be on the clock

PLAYING KEEP away and stalling will be less of a factor in varsity basketball games when the WIAA's 35-second shot clock goes into effect starting in the 2019-20 season. Area coaches have a variety...

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POSTED August 7, 2017 8:10 a.m.

    STEVENS POINT – The time has come for a shot clock for high school basketball in the state of Wisconsin.
    Following a lengthy discussion during their June meeting, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Control voted 6-4 to implement the use of a 35-second shot clock in boys’ and girls’ basketball for varsity games only, beginning in the 2019-20 season.
    In other basketball-related action, the WIAA Board approved a recommendation to seed teams at the State Tournament in all five divisions beginning with the upcoming 2017-18 season. The coaches of the state qualifying teams will determine the seeds for the four qualifying teams in each division with a Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association representative breaking any ties that may occur.
    Three other basketball recommendations also received approval from the Board. If schools choose to play only one half of a junior varsity game and a full varsity game, players will be allowed to play in only two halves. Also approved was extending the coaching box to 28 feet from 14 feet for all levels. In addition, the number of players per team allowed to dress during the WIAA tournament series will increase to 18 while maintaining the maximum party limit of 22.
    While four of the approved changes go into effect immediately, the one that brought the most discussion throughout the state was the shot clock, which won’t take effect for another two years.
    Coaches have varied opinions about whether or not they are in favor of the shot clock, but most agree it shows the state is being progressive in leading the sport in a positive direction.
    Wisconsin becomes just the 10th state in the nation and the first in the Midwest to approve the use of the shot clock at the prep level.
    “I’m surprised it passed this year. I knew it was coming eventually, but I thought it was maybe five or 10 years down the road,” said Cuba City boys’ basketball coach Jerry Petitgoue, who is the winningest coach in state history with 906 career victories in 50 seasons. “I may surprise a lot of people because of my age, but I’m in favor of it. I think it will be a positive thing for basketball in the state. It helps the flow of the game. “I look at this as part of progression of basketball in the state. I think in time the kids and the fans will love it.
    This feels similar to 1988 when the 3-point line came into play. Some coaches felt it would ruin the game. Now, it such a part of the game that there’s no way you’d ever vote to get rid of it.”
    The WIAA made the move from playing four 8-minute quarters to two 18-minutes halves two seasons ago to improve the flow of the game, limit stalling situations and get in line with the college and international game. The move to the shot clock is another step in that same direction.
    “By nature, change causes anxiety. The move to halves instead of quarters caused many to balk, but several coaches, including me, were pleasantly surprised by the move. I want to maintain an open mind. I feel fortunate to coach in a progressive state like Wisconsin,” declared Black Hawk girls’ basketball coach Michael Flanagan.
    Cuba Cuba girls’ basketball coach Jeff Pustina agrees with his colleagues in feeling that in time the shot clock will be a positive change for the game in the state.
    “I am always for anything that will improve the game of basketball. I believe this change is something that will positively impact the game. It may take a while for the coaches/players to smooth out what it takes effectively to deal with a shot clock, but in the long run it will be positive,” said Pustina.
    And, that comment is coming from a coach who has used the spread and delay tactic to his advantage for 30 years while leading the Lady Cubans to 630 victories and nine state titles.
    “I believe that doing (the spread) took a great deal of practice and skill, but caused the game to become a game of keep a way. If you were ahead and had those types of kids who could run it, the game should be over,” explained Pustina. “Now, the team ahead will have to learn a new philosophy and become offensively efficient, and the team behind will have to shore up defensively and won’t necessarily have to foul.”
    Coaches like Shullsburg’s Nathan Russell and Darlington’s Tom Uppena forsee teams using more zone defenses to try and slow teams down and force them to take rushed shots with the clock running down.
    “I do believe that you will see more zone and token pressure in the women’s game in order to take time off of the shot clock and force more threes,” expressed Russell.
    Uppena also feels that there may be many more lopsided games as well with less talented teams struggling to get good shots off against their more talented opponents.
    “Having a two year lead in will help to give coaches an opportunity to work on set plays and develop strategies both offensively and defensively,” replied Uppena.
    Other coaches would rather see the shot clock come into use sooner.
    “I wish it would start next year from a basketball standpoint,” admitted Belmont girls’ basketball coach Alan Seabrooke. “I think the shot clock will be a fun thing to add to the high school game. It will get rid of the extended stalling, which will give teams a better chance to make a comeback at the end of a game. It will require teams to practice another aspect of the game more frequently, because you will have more end-of-the-clock situations. Overall, I like the move and think it will be good for the game.”  
    Whether they are for it or against players and coaches alike will have to adjust to its use by the time the 2019-20 season rolls around.
    “Teams will definitely be prompted to rep shot clock situations in advance of its actual instatement. Primarily, I foresee teams exploring zone presses to slow down opponents, half-court zones and ‘pack-line’ defenses to compel longer possessions, and late ball-screen actions on offense to create quick read opportunities. I personally will want to network with some college coaches about shot clock-specific concepts,” stated Flanagan.
    Petigoue feels the shot clock will have its most impact in the final five minutes of the game.
    “It brings coaching strategy back into the game a little more, especially in the last five minutes of a game. Do you put up quick shots to try and get more possessions or do you play defense to get the ball back? It forces coaches to make those types of decisions, rather than pulling the ball out to sit on it or continuously fouling to try and stay in a game. Good defensive teams will still benefit from playing defense maybe even more so than they do now because they only have to play defense for 35 seconds,” he said.
    Most of the concerns about the shot clock revolve around the cost of the clocks to school districts and finding individuals to operate the clock.
    The costs of purchasing the shot clocks has been estimated between $2,000-$4,000 with additional funds needed at each game to hire an operator to run the clocks. Some schools said shot clock operators could make around $20-25 per game meaning another $400 or $500 per season for girls’ and boys’ varsity games.
    With budgets tight these days at many schools, some may have problems with the costs. Additionally, many school districts already have problems finding workers to run the clocks and keep scorebooks at games, so they wonder if they’ll be able to find anyone to do so.
    Finally, there are questions about how well trained will those operators be, and if the clocks be consistently operated from gym to gym.
    “Some negatives are obviously the initial cost, and then finding someone capable of running a shot clock. It is much more difficult than operating the normal clock,” remarked Uppena. “We don’t exactly have people lining up around the block to work at sporting events, so this will present another challenge.”
    Petitgoue, who is also the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, acknowledges those are all legitimate concerns, but feels with the two-year time frame until implementation, schools will have plenty of time to figure out the financial part and train shot clock operators.
    Petitgoue said the WBCA plans to offer classes through colleges around the state– since they already have the equipment installed and running for operating a shot clock– on shot clock operation starting during the 2018-19 season. He stated a one-night class should be enough to get operators up to speed.
    “Most schools have a booster club or a sponsor who will be willing to fund the shot clock,” noted Petitgoue. “Some of the college coaches I talked to said they have more problems with people keeping the scoreboard than those running the shot clock.”
    Time will tell what effect the shot clock will have on the state of basketball in Wisconsin, but coaches and players both will have to get used to being on the clock.

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