SUPPORT GROWS BY THE SECOND
TWO YEARS AGO, COACHES IN ILLINOIS WERE CLOSELY SPLIT OVER ADDING SHOT CLOCK; NOW PROPONENTS THINK IT’S TIME TO DO ANOTHER COUNT
The National Federation of State High School Associations continually revisits the topic of adding a basketball shot clock. This past spring, it again rejected a proposal to mandate its use. And as the NFHS goes, so does the IHSA for Illinois sports, typically. “The IHSA has not deviated from NFHS rules historically, as doing so forfeits our voice in the national rules writing process,” IHSA spokesperson Matt Troha said.
But that hasn’t stopped other individual states from adding the shot clock within their own state athletic associations, and the idea is beginning to pick up steam and support in the Illinois basketball community.
Young coach Tyrone Slaughter is leading a grassroots effort by a group of coaches, engaging both boys and girls coaches across the state via Zoom calls to discuss and explore the possibilities of bringing the shot clock to Illinois.
The effort includes conducting a massive statewide survey among high school coaches; that went out Monday for coaches to complete by Sunday. There’s even a hashtag on Twitter, #IHSAShotClockNow.
“I think this early process has been great and intelligent in how it’s being done,” Loyola coach Tom Livatino said.
The IHSA surveyed basketball coaches around the state about the shot clock (and many other issues) in 2018. Coaches at the time were narrowly against it, 222-221.
Support appears significant in the Chicago area. Livatino is one who says he “doesn’t see any negatives.”
The IHSA is aware of the movement and has a system in place for rule changes.
“If a large contingent of coaches were in favor of adopting a shot clock, they could propose it to the IHSA Basketball Advisory Committee,” Troha said. “Assuming that committee supported the change, it would run through our normal committee process for feedback, and the IHSA Board of Directors would have the ultimate say on if, when and how the shot clock would be implemented.”
Evanston coach Mike Ellis is also a big proponent of adding it to the high school game. He has coached both in central Illinois at Peoria Richwoods and in the Chicago area over the last decade at Evanston, using different styles and approaches against opponents. He has had teams that averaged 70 points a game, as well as one that lost 31-29 in overtime to Simeon and Derrick Rose in the 2006 state title game.
“The shot clock puts more coaching into the game,” said Ellis, who has guided four teams to state trophies. “You are going to employ more strategy into those possessions. The quality of coaching in using shot-clock strategy takes some of the value of the talent away.”
The average number of possessions in a high school basketball game is 65, Ellis says. That comes to about 15 seconds per possession on average.
“We’re actually asking to double the time of an average possession in a high school game by 15 seconds,” he said. “When you look at the big picture, there are so many benefits from the addition of a shot clock.”
Maine South coach Tony Lavorato plays a system at both ends of the floor that might make one think a shot clock would be detrimental to him. Maine South has averaged 51 points a game over the last three seasons.
“I am 100 percent in favor of a shot clock,” Lavorato said. “I would be thrilled with a shot clock. We haven’t had a major rule change since the three-point shot, which I think came in 1987. This would be a breath of fresh air for the game.”
Loyola is another defense-first-minded program with a distinct, patient offensive style. The Ramblers won 30 games in the Chicago Catholic League this past season. They allowed just two teams to score 50 or more points in 34 games.
“Against probably popular opinion, I think the shot clock benefits us,” Livatino said. “I think as a coach, it gives you more control of what happens in a game, both offensively and defensively.”
Ten states in the U.S. now play with a shot clock: California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Washington.
Some coaches, especially in the Public League, are concerned about the cost of installing and operating the shot clock. A study done in Ohio three years ago found that the average cost to implement it was between $5,000 and $10,000. There are more than 100 schools with basketball teams in the city.
“Currently, one of my biggest game-day stresses is finding a qualified student to run the clock,” Clemente coach Adam Hoover said. “Adding a shot clock to that responsibility would be tough. No teachers or adults love doing it since they won’t be paid. I’d love the shot clock, but not sure how we can make it work functionally.”
Taft coach Jason Tucker has recently changed his mind on the shot clock.
“At first I was worried about the funding,” he said. “We are in the White-North, and I think maybe two out of 10 teams in the conference have real scoreboards in their gyms.
“But I’ve been convinced after talking to some of my colleagues. I’ve won some games by holding the ball, but I know it’s boring basketball and it’s cheating the kids. We need the game to be faster to catch up with other states in the country. Chicago is the mecca of basketball, and we need to catch up with the times.” ✶
“When you look at the big picture, there are so many benefits from the addition of a shot clock.” Mike Ellis, Evanston coach
“I’ve won some games by holding the ball, but I know it’s boring basketball and it’s cheating the kids. We need the game to be faster to catch up with other states in the country.” Jason Tucker, Taft coach
Tyrone Slaughter, the boys basketball coach at Young, has been reaching out to boys and girls coaches statewide to drum up support for the shot clock, which 10 other states now use at the high school level.
Taft’s Jason Tucker used to oppose the shot clock over cost but has been sold on its benefits.
Evanston’s Mike Ellis (front, left) believes the shot clock would lead to better strategy.