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Basketball: Area coaches sound off as GHSA votes to add shot clock
WF CoachMay web
West Forsyth girls basketball coach David May worries that a 30-second shot clock will make it tougher to compete against the state's top teams. - photo by Brian Paglia

The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) approved a proposal Tuesday that will phase in a 30-second shot clock over the next three school years.

The GHSA executive committee passed the proposal 53-10, with four members absent.

Only approved holiday tournaments and showcase games will use the shot clock during the 2020-21 season. In 2021-22, however, all region games will feature a shot clock, while it will be a permanent fixture in all varsity games in 2022-23, including state playoffs.

"I'll be honest, there is not anything about that rule that I like," West Forsyth girls basketball coach David May said. "I mean, colleges and NBA, they have television reviews and they have a hard time in terms of sometimes deciding did a shot touch the rim or not touch the rim. And they can go back and review it on TV. In a tight game, we put one more thing that's going to be left in the hands of officials who probably don't want to make that call in a tight game."

May's primary concern is that the rule will make it more difficult to compete with the state's top teams.

"In terms of competing at a state level, it's going to give the teams that have an even greater talent gap an even greater advantage," May said. "It's going to lead to more blowouts, is what it's going to lead to, because a team that's not as good is going to have to come down and shoot the ball every 30 or 35 seconds. Defensively, it allows you to load up on the maybe one or two players they have and force shots from kids who aren't necessarily as good."

Girls basketball in particular has been dominated by a handful of schools in the past decade. Three schools split the past 11 state championships in Georgia's highest classification (McEachern 5, Norcross 3, Westlake 3).

South Forsyth coach Scott Givens sees the rule affecting the boys basketball landscape in a similar fashion.

"It's definitely an advantage to the teams that are more talented. I'm not scared to say this, too: I think there's a certain group of coaches who are pushing this," Givens said. "Maybe this is the wrong assumption, but I would say it's the same coaches who seem to get new players every single year."

Scott Givens
South Forsyth boys basketball coach Scott Givens believes implementing a 30-second shot clock jeopardizes potential upsets. Photo by Ben Hendren
Givens recalls a 2016 game against Norcross in the first round of the playoffs, one South Forsyth lost 45-37. The War Eagles employed a five-out offense, a tedious style that rewards patience while spacing out all five players behind the arc.

The strategy helped South Forsyth control the game's tempo and limit Norcross to just 14 first-half points. Suddenly, the War Eagles found themselves in a two-possession game in the final minute before Norcross converted on a series of free throws to put the game out of reach.

"About 30 minutes after the game, their coach was complaining about, 'We need a shot clock in GHSA.' He put it on Twitter and I just kind of laughed and kind of chuckled," Givens remembered.

That Norcross team sent five players to the Division I ranks: Lance Thomas (Louisville), Jordan Goldwire (Duke), Rayshaun Hammonds (Georgia), Kyle Sturdivant (Southern Cal) and Dalvin White (USC Upstate).

South Forsyth had one in Evan Cole, who played three seasons at Georgia Tech before transferring to Utah Valley.

For Givens, implementing a 30-second shot clock jeopardizes potential upsets such as those.

"We went five out and practiced it for a few days. The kids bought into it," Givens said. "Now, we didn't just hold the ball all night long, but we dictated the tempo completely. We almost pulled off an unbelievable upset. I mean, we really did, because we had no business being on the floor with them."

Denmark's boys basketball team played with a shot clock last season in one game, when the Danes faced Maynard Jackson in the Hawks-Naismith Tipoff Classic.

The GHSA allowed several games in the tournament to feature a shot clock for the first time in the state's history. 

Tyler Whitlock
Denmark boys basketball coach Tyler Whitlock led the Danes against Maynard Jackson last year in the Hawks-Naismith Tipoff Classic, a tournament that featured a shot clock. Photo by Ben Hendren
"As a matter of fact, we played in a tournament this past year where we got to play in a game with a shot clock, and I think it was literally one possession where the shot clock even played a factor," Denmark boys basketball coach Tyler Whitlock said. "I think for the most part, it's not going to be very different at all."

However, Whitlock acknowledges the rule will impact teams differently based on coaching style.

"It is to the advantage of some teams to slow the game down, create fewer possessions so you've got more opportunities to keep the game close and be in a game late down the stretch," Whitlock said. "But for the most part, I don't think you're going to see an effect at all."

The NBA introduced a 24-second shot clock during the 1954-55 season. The NCAA followed in 1986 with a 45-second clock before trimming it to 35 seconds in 1993, then 30 seconds five years ago.

Some proponents argue implementing a shot clock in high school will allow players to enter the college game more prepared.

"We've heard all these arguments — 'Hey, it's going to benefit the kids playing at the next level,'" May said. "Well, that's good. That's about 2 percent of the high school population. So you're going to sacrifice the other 98 percent for those 2 percent that may go on to play at the college level?

"I've sent a lot of kids to the collegiate level, just from here and other places, and I've never had one player come back and say, 'Man, I wish you would have had the shot clock in high school.'"

Givens believes a 40-second shot clock would be more practical at the high school level, and said a 35-second clock would be a good compromise. 

May also voiced his concern about the logistics of the rule, including adding more pressure on officials and people who operate the scoreboard, many of whom are volunteers.

"You have a guy at the scorer's table who's running the clock who has to decide, 'Should I reset the shot clock or not reset the shot clock?'" May said. "At the high school level, when you don't have people paid at the scorer's table — the people at the scorer's table are volunteers a lot of times. They're teachers or volunteering their time to help out. These are not paid professionals who are dealing with this stuff."

The National Federation of State High School Associations struck down a similar proposal last month. 

Georgia is the ninth state to adopt the measure, joining California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington.

"To me it takes away a little bit of the beauty of the game and the strategy of the game for the underdog," Givens said. "Why give teams who already have a built-in advantage another advantage? That's what I love about basketball."