High school basketball: McHenry County coaches weigh in on potential shot clock

As discussion increases, questions still remain about overall cost

As the director of development and communications for the National High School Basketball Coaches Association, Rich Czeslawski speaks to as many basketball coaches as anyone.

The Crystal Lake Central boys basketball coach has heard all sides of the argument regarding a shot clock at the high school level. When it comes to states that already have a shot clock, of which there are eight, Czeslawski hears similar things.

“I’ve talked to guys in all of the states that have it,” Czeslawski said. “Every single one of them says the same thing. They all like it once they get it.”

There has been increased discussion about a shot clock coming to Illinois high school basketball in recent weeks after multiple reports have quoted IHSA assistant executive director Kurt Gibson saying he believes it could be approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations within the next few years.

Czeslawski thinks it would be a good thing for the game.

“I’m for it,” Czeslawski said. “I think it will make the games more exciting. The teams that maybe feel like they have to hold the ball in order to compete, a lot of the times they can’t hold the ball against a better team anyway. That argument is a little bit false, in my opinion.”

Czeslawski believes it's only a matter of time before Illinois adopts a shot clock.

The biggest hurdle would be the cost of purchasing and installing it at every school in the state, and the potential ongoing cost of paying someone to operate the shot clock at games.

In July, the WIAA in Wisconsin approved a shot clock for basketball, with the associate director estimating it would cost each school between $2,000 and $2,400 to purchase and install. Five months later, the WIAA board rescinded its vote, largely based off feedback it heard from schools and administrators.

While Czeslawski thinks paying someone to operate the clock every game is a legitimate concern for some schools, he believes the cost of purchasing and installing a shot clock is overblown.

“Getting it installed is not going to be as bad as people think,” Czeslawski said. "It’s a one-time expense. … But really that gets thrown out because you can probably find a sponsor to slap a sticker on it and pay for it, that type of thing.

McHenry girls basketball coach and assistant athletic director Rob Niemic isn’t so sure.

“The financial piece of it is something that … they better have a plan for that,” Niemic said. “That’s where they’re going to get the most kickback.”

Niemic is indifferent on the shot clock. He isn’t worried about his team scoring quickly. The Warriors played at a fast pace last year on their way to a Fox Valley Conference title.

Teams would need to practice with the shot clock, meaning a manager or an assistant coach would have to operate it during practices. Spending time preparing to beat the clock also takes away from other aspects of practice.

“You’re going to have to spend a lot more time preparing for [the shot clock]," Niemic said. "That might take away from the skills work.”

Installing a shot clock could present a problem for smaller schools in rural areas or schools in tighter financial situations. Alden-Hebron athletic director John Lalor said he can see both sides of the argument.

"We’re very limited on our athletic budgets to begin with," Lalor said. "We’ve had great help from our booster club, and I’m sure other schools are the same way.

"As far as the budget, maybe I can go get a sponsor for the shot clock, but that’s $2,000, $3,000 that I’ve got to come up with.”

Lalor said Alden-Hebron, with an enrollment of 109 students this year, would find a way to make it work if a shot clock were mandated.

“To me, when your team is struggling, talent-wise, or you’re not very deep, you can slow things down and stay in a game," Lalor said. "I’m not sure [the shot clock] is a good thing.”

As far as the flow of the game and the quality of the play is concerned, Jacobs boys basketball coach Jimmy Roberts said he would be “in favor of a shot clock, for sure.”

“It puts a bigger emphasis on kids' skills,” Roberts said. “Are they able to put the ball in the basket? What types of stuff you run. It’s a lot more strategy. There’s end of shot clock possessions.”

He believes a shot clock would favor good defensive teams. No longer could the offense keep working the ball around indefinitely for an open shot.

It would also change the way teams play with a lead in the final minutes because the team with the lead can no longer milk the clock.

“It puts a bigger emphasis on us as coaches,” Roberts said. “We have to – to generalize it – run better stuff. Give our kids opportunities to score and score quick.”

Czeslawski believes the vast majority of high school teams already shoot within 35 or 40 seconds on most possessions. He doesn’t see a shot clock changing the game all that much in high school basketball.

“Increasingly, the sentiment is we might as well go to it, everyone else has,” Czeslawski said. “Every organized level of basketball from college to pros to FIBA overseas, everyone else is playing with it. It’s gotten to that point where it’s, why wouldn’t we do this?”

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