The Arizona Interscholastic Association can take its basketball product to new heights. How? Bring on the shot clock.
From an entertainment perspective, it can do nothing but improve the flow and pace of games. It will result in higher-scoring contests and less stalling.
From a developmental perspective, it will prepare high school basketball players better for the college game.
The Canyon Athletic Association, an Arizona charter school league, has announced it will play with a 35-second shot clock during the upcoming season for its Open Division, expected to include about a dozen teams.
The CAA counts 89 schools as members, which has shrunk from 104, according to the Arizona Republic.
There is no question the CAA looks at this as a way to make inroads against its bigger, more well-heeled and more respected competitor, the AIA. It could make the CAA more attractive to both players and coaches, thereby poaching talent from the AIA ranks.
All of this makes it sound like a no-brainer and a slam dunk for the AIA to institute a shot clock.
However, the logistics behind the implementation of a shot clock aren’t as simple as a snap of the fingers.
I asked David Hines, executive director of the AIA, if the CAA’s decision would affect how his organization views having a shot clock.
“It does not affect it,” he said flatly.
The AIA belongs to a national organizing body called the National Federation of High School sports. The NFHS has rules and bylaws, just like the AIA.
Hines said if member organizations choose not to abide by the rules set forth by the NFHS, it will result in consequences.
“It would mean we would have to modify our rules, and we would lose our seat at the table,” he said, referring to the NFHS rules committee.
The logistical concerns, Hines added, include not just the purchase of a shot clock for all schools — the AIA has 275 member schools — but additional personnel.
During regular season basketball games, the AIA uses two-person officiating crews. If a shot clock is introduced, Hines said every game will need a three-person crew, with one referee dedicated to the shot clock. Schools will also need a trained shot clock operators.
State playoff games already use three-person crews, so it would not affect the number of officials for the state tournaments.
A vote on shot clock use was taken at the national level, and it was rejected by the NFHS. A state level vote by the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association was more favorable toward a shot clock, but it did not lead to any push for a change to the rules.
California, also a member of NFHS, decided to move ahead and adopt a shot clock anyway.
A total of eight states have mandated shot clocks in high school basketball — California, New York, Washington, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, North Dakota and South Dakota.
If change is to happen in the AIA, it must go through a legislative process. Any school, region or conference can bring forth legislation for consideration.
The proposal then goes to a vote of the legislative committee, which consists of 48 members. Those 48 members include seven representatives from each of the six conferences, and six school board members — one from each conference.
In order for the legislation to pass, it needs the support of two-thirds of the voters present at a legislative council meeting. If the full 48 members were present, it would take 32 votes to pass.
Hines is skeptical of the need for shot clocks, citing a statistic that the average possession in a high school basketball game is between 14 and 16 seconds.
Even if that number is accurate, there will always be teams who abuse the absence of a shot clock.
I have covered teams that would like nothing more than to grind the pace to a halt, ugly up the game and have a final score of 38-35. And even for teams who normally play at a fast pace, there are often end-of-game situations where fans want to see action and instead have to watch a team hold the ball.
It’s not a good product for fans. And the goal should be to make the games entertaining.
Logistical challenges are no small obstacle, but a shot clock would improve the brand and the product of AIA basketball for everyone — coaches, players and fans.