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MHSA again begins shot clock discussion - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana

MHSA again begins shot clock discussion

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As high school basketball in Montana continues to evolve, the cries for a shot clock have grown louder.

The noise has now gotten loud enough that the Montana High School Association is sending surveys to member schools to determine the overall interest in adding a shot clock to the game. The MHSA sent out a survey once before, with approximately 60 percent of schools voting against implementing a shot clock at the time.

The primary calls for a shot clock this time around, it seems, stem from teams utilizing stalling techniques. The belief is that these strategies contribute to lower scores. The average points scored per game have indeed decreased over the years.

“There are some good points for why you would be in favor of a shot clock,” said MHSA executive director Mark Beckman. “For example, some people believe it makes the game more competitive, that it takes away the stalls, it makes it more entertaining.”

However, there isn’t evidence that supports adding a shot clock will lead to more scoring. In fact, scoring averages are higher in states that don’t use a shot clock than states that do use a shot clock. Eight states, including North Dakota and South Dakota, have implemented shot clocks.

The National Federation of High School Associations, which sets the countrywide rules and regulations, has not instituted a shot clock.

“(The NFHS) believes fundamentals are being compromised by having the shot clock, because they’re not teaching some of the basic skills,” Beckman said. “Also, the National Federation believes that the game is in good shape right now, so they don’t believe there should be any major change to the game.”

One of the biggest challenges to adding a shot clock in Montana would be financial. Beckman said the average cost for one shot clock is $2,400. That would be a $4,800 investment for each school –more for larger schools that would need to outfit multiple gymnasiums with the equipment. Some facilities in Montana, like the gym at Hamilton, were designed with shot clocks in mind, so adding the hardware there would be simple.

It could prove quite costly to retrofit many of Montana’s older facilities, and then there’s the issue of finding suitable clock operators and training officials.

“The other problem that comes is shot clock operators,” Beckman said. “We have troubles sometimes just finding people to do the book and some of the other things and clock without having now to bring somebody in to do the shot clock.”

Beckman, who coached basketball for more than 20 years, is neither for nor against the addition of a shot clock. He can certainly see the benefits, but for now the decision belongs to the schools. The MHSA executive board won’t review the survey results until September.

If there’s a large majority in favor, the executive board could put a new rule in place or a school could submit a formal proposal at next January’s annual meetings.

It’s a long process, and Montana is in the early stages, but the shot clock discussion has started again.

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