High school basketball: Area coaches see pros, cons of shot clock

One of the area’s state championship coaches is for a shot clock in high school basketball — but not for the reason you might think.

Of course Trotwood-Madison coach Rocky Rockhold has seen the videos. The ones where a coach tells his or her team to run the clock and a player proceeds to put the ball on his or her hip and watch the seconds tick away.

The clip might go viral (accompanied by complaints from fans, coaches and media alike), but that type of thing is not Rockhold’s main concern.

“I am definitely pro shot clock for a lot of reasons, but I just really feel like it forces us to continue to teach guys how to play the game as opposed to how to run patterns or how to run sets,” Rockhold said. “We really have to teach the guys just how to play, play the game of basketball, and I think sometimes that’s lost a lot because these kids don’t just get out and and play one-on-one or three-on-three and have to learn how to get open or create shots that way.”

Former Wayne High School girls basketball coach Travis Trice Sr., who led the Warriors boys to the Division I state title in 2015, took over the girls program two years later and is now set to become an assistant for the Wright State men’s basketball program, shared a similar point of view.

“I’m all for a shot clock to be honest with you,” Trice said, referring to both genders. “I think that it changes the game and changes the scope of not just talent and playing but coaching as well.

“I think there’s a significant difference when there’s a shot clock going and you have to have some things that you’ve got to be good at and still be able to get a good quality shot.”

A high school basketball shot clock in Ohio may not be imminent, but a recent move by the National Federation of State High School Associations could make it more likely in the future.

Beginning in 2022-23, state associations will be permitted to use a 35-second shot clock for boys and girls basketball if they choose.

According to our news partner WCPO, nine states (California, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington) had used a 30- or 35-second shot clock before the announcement.

Doing so made them ineligible for a role on the NFHS basketball rules committee, which likely served as a deterrent to adoption in Ohio.

While that is no longer a concern, others still remain — including cost, operation and impact on how the game is played.

“I am not totally sold on the cost vs. benefit of having a shot clock,” Middletown athletics director J.D. Foust said. “I can see the argument in preparing the kids for college, but are we basing this change on five percent or less of the high school kids that will actually go on to the next level? I can see it hurting many programs by increasing the margin of scores of mismatched teams.”

He noted the Middies have a shot clock in their varsity gym but would need to install them elsewhere in his district and pay someone to run them.

“I hope that OHSAA listens to the coaches and more importantly the administrators of the member schools,” Foust said. “This is a very costly decision to make for some programs, especially coming off of a pandemic that destroyed many athletic budgets.”

Brook Cupps, who coached the Centerville boys to the Division I state championship in March, said he is neither for nor against a high school shot clock in the long run.

“I think it’s a benefit to those kids, but I don’t think our rules in high school basketball should be designed for the three percent of kids that go play college basketball,” said Cupps, who has three players on his current roster with Division I college basketball scholarship offers, including his son Gabe. “I think it should be designed for our game, and for what’s best for the kids that we have and the whole group.

“I think there is some truth to (the college preparation angle), but at the same time those kids that are that are at that level doing that have that shot clock in the shoe circuits (summer AAU tournaments) and things like that so they’re going to get that experience.”

Tippecanoe boys high school coach Adam Toohey, whose team went 21-2 last season and won the Miami Valley League, indicated he is open to learning more about the potential impact of a shot clock but has some misgivings.

“There’s a lot of great basketball in Ohio, and there’s a lot a lot of schools that maybe don’t have as good as skill,” Toohey said. “They’ve got to work until they get a layup or do what they’ve got to do, screening a ton and trying to wear you down.

“I think it’s OK if games are 40-40. Sometimes that happens. I don’t know if (a shot clock) would make better basketball. It would just create more shots, but will it make for better basketball? I don’t know that there’s hard evidence (it would).”

His boss, Tippecanoe athletic director Kregg Creamer, was one of multiple ADs contacted by this news organization who expressed concerns about the cost of installing shot clocks, which could ran from $1,500-4,000 for a pair according to NFHS data cited by WCPO.

Creamer, a former varsity basketball coach himself, had other reasons as well.

“I’m not in favor of adding or forcing additional expenses on to school districts in terms of having to buy the equipment, but maybe even more important finding the person who’s going to be responsible for running the equipment,” Creamer said. “We all struggle with finding those volunteers that are willing to do things, and this isn’t just somebody volunteering. This would be somebody who has to come in and be trained on how to operate a shot clock because you can’t have mistakes during the game.

“Then having been a varsity basketball coach myself, I think the beauty of high school basketball is a team that has lesser talent still has a chance to beat teams with greater talent by doing things like running the clock and cherishing possessions. I just hate to eliminate or cause more separation between the haves and the have nots.”

Trice and Hank Benton, who has coached the girls at Trotwood-Madison for the past 10 years after eight years coaching boys at multiple schools, both brushed aside that concern by saying the positives outweigh the negatives.

Credit: Michael Cooper

Credit: Michael Cooper

“I think it makes the coaches coach, it makes the players think, and my whole philosophy of coaching girls basketball is to prepare players for the next level, not how successful I am here,” Benton said. “If it’s gonna help them roll in terms of reaching the next level, then I’m all for it.”

Although the gap between good teams and the rest of the field may be larger in girls basketball than it is with the boys, Benton suggested a shot clock would have a greater impact on the boys game.

He used Rockhold’s Runnin’ Rams as an example.

The TMHS boys averaged more than 100 points per game en route to the Division II state title in 2019 while no one else in the GWOC scored more than 75.

“When you go up against him, you’re not trying to run with him,” Benton said. “You’re trying to slow the tempo down. Then it becomes whose will is stronger. Sometimes the up-tempo team outshines the deliberate teams and sometimes it’s the deliberate teams that are stronger. A shot clock would be a disadvantage for a deliberate team that may run a motion offense and say they’re going to take a minute or two on each possession.”

Trotwood-Madison Athletic Director Jonas Smith, who is also a former girls basketball coach, expressed appreciation for the way the OHSAA is going about gathering input from member schools before making any changes.

“I think it’s paramount to gather as much information as possible from our stakeholders,” Smith said while noting TMHS does have shot clocks already installed for the purpose of hosting other events. “I’m not sure how many other schools in Southwest Ohio actually have a shot clock, but I know this could be costly for school districts whose budgets are already strapped. If this was to come to fruition, it probably will be at least three years down the road. Officials would need to be trained and school districts would have to hire and train another person to handle this.”

While reiterating he prefers to run short sets and leave more decisions to his players on the floor, Rockhold said he did not have any qualm with coaches who still run intricate offenses like the one he played in at Greeneview.

Credit: Michael Cooper

Credit: Michael Cooper

He also did not complain about teams that might want to hold the ball against his.

“I get it from a fan perspective, but that is not a good argument for a shot clock because the opposing team can certainly do something about (holding the ball),” he said. “I can do some things defensively that speeds you up and I feel like that’s something that we do really well against teams. We’re able to speed other teams up who really don’t want to play the way we play.”

Whatever happens, Cupps said to expect coaches to adjust.

“We’ll have to have stuff for the end of the end of possessions,” he said. “We’ll have to have something to go to in a way to get a to get a good look at the end of shot clocks.

“I think you would probably see a little bit more zone stuff with a shot clock, but I don’t really have super strong feelings. I think the best teams, the best programs, the best coaches are going to figure out ways to adjust, and 10 years from the time you put the shot clock in you’ll think you’ve always had a shot clock.”

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