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Greg Lee: Idaho’s correct to stay away from shot clock

In many things – whether it’s prep sports or various avenues in life – I’ve often thought that Idaho was behind the times.

I’m convinced that the Gem State has it right, though, when it comes to not having a shot clock for boys and girls basketball.

At the Idaho High School Activities Association’s September board meeting, a Boise-area school requested the use of a shot clock for a holiday tournament this winter. The request was shot down unanimously.

Using a shot clock, as I found out this week, is frowned upon by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Seven states use a shot clock for boys and girls basketball, including Washington, and Maryland uses it just for girls.

Before the IHSAA meeting, first-year executive director Ty Jones did some research.

“I called the national office and was told we could use it, but we’d lose our spot (a rotated position) on the basketball rules committee,” Jones said.

A push was spearheaded by a high school administrator in the Boise area a few years ago to institute a shot clock, but the IHSAA board didn’t budge.

Two reasons cited for denying the request were the extra expense of purchasing a clock system and expense of paying somebody to operate said equipment.

“Consider that with the boys and girls teams you have throughout your program, you’re looking at about 60 home games over the course of a season,” Lake City athletic director and boys basketball coach Jim Winger said. “Finding score table people isn’t easy. And you just can’t have anybody run a shot clock. They have to be trained on when to reset the clock properly and when not to.”

Winger doesn’t support having a shot clock.

“It’s totally unnecessary,” he said. “Administratively, I’ve been to plenty of games where the shot clock person wasn’t as good as they should have been.”

Winger believes having a shot clock takes away a strategic option for a lesser-talented team.

“If I want to take 45 seconds at the end of the quarter before we run a play, I should have that option,” he said. “You get paid to coach all aspects of the game. It’s your job to figure out how to speed up a game if a team is trying to slow it down.”

Former Coeur d’Alene boys coach Kent Leiss, who is in his first year at Sandpoint, sees both the pros and cons of a shot clock.

“It can be an offensive or a defensive strategy,” Leiss said. “(Louisville coach Rick) Pitino presses you hard to try to take as much time off the shot clock and force you to take a bad shot. I like my teams to play fast so a shot clock doesn’t matter for us.”

It’s rare that teams slow the tempo down the entire game.

“I remember a couple of years ago we played Lakeland and they took the air out of the ball,” Leiss said. “We won 36-23. It wasn’t pretty.”

Leiss’ teams have played across the state line against Greater Spokane League teams.

“I don’t ever remember the shot clock going off,” he said.

In Washington, a 30-second clock has been used for girls since 1974. A 35-second clock was adopted for boys beginning with the 2009-10 season.

“I think the shot clock has little impact on the game,” WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said.

What Idaho needs to consider is going to three-man officiating crews.

North Idaho schools have been experimenting with three-man crews the past seven years, but the rest of the state has been slow to consider the extra referee.

Jones supports it.

“It cleans up the game, especially off the ball,” Jones said.

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