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Is North Carolina ready for a shot clock in prep basketball? We’re about to find out

Is N.C. high school basketball ready for the shot clock? We will find out this year.
Is N.C. high school basketball ready for the shot clock? We will find out this year. AP

Eight states throughout the United States play high school basketball with a shot clock. North Carolina hasn’t been one of them.

Until now.

Two high school basketball tournaments in November will use a shot clock, including one in Charlotte.

The Carmel Christian Tip Off Classic in Charlotte Nov. 9-10 and the National High School Showcase in Greensboro Nov. 16-17 will use the clock. The tournaments are being sponsored by Phenom Hoop Report, a regional scouting service that paid $3,000 for two wireless clocks.

The field for the nine-team event in Charlotte includes national power Oak Hill (Va.), Carmel Christian, Concord Cannon and Providence Day, but no in-state public school teams.

“Carmel is hosting the tournament, and the host school chose to use the shot clock and we are absolutely OK with their decision,” said Homar Ramirez, executive director of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association. “I think that there’s still lots to be learned from a shot clock for high school basketball, and this is a good opportunity to learn.”

The shot clock is a hot-button topic among high school coaches, parents and players. There are many detractors and supporters. But both sides agree that the push to add one on a national level has never been stronger.

Those who argue for the clock, including ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi, say that it makes the game better and it matches the way the game is played almost everywhere else, from international play to college to the pros. Detractors feel the clock adds unneeded expense to high schools already strapped for cash and the majority of high school athletes will never play beyond 12th grade.

According to NCAA data from 2017, there were nearly 550,000 boys and 430,000 girls who played high school basketball in the United States. Of those, 3.4 percent of boys played in the NCAA and 3.9 percent of the girls.

Or as Kevin Garner, assistant executive director of the Missouri State High School Activities Association told the Quincy (Ill.) Whig last spring: “Should we make the high school game like the college game to help less than 4 percent of the players?”

Garner is part of an 11-person basketball rules committee for the National Federation of High Schools. He believes, however, that a shot clock proposal will be on the rules committee’s ballot during the current school year.

For now, these states are using the clock: California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington. Doing so means forfeiting that state’s seat on the NFHS rules committee since the federation does not endorse its use.

In June 2017, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to add the shot clock beginning with the 2019-20 season. But the vote was rescinded last December.

NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker NCHSAA

In North Carolina, Que Tucker, the commissioner of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, doesn’t think a clock is needed in high school basketball.

“We hear rumblings about a shot clock,” she said, “but we haven’t considered it. ... How many teams in North Carolina really, really need a shot clock? Most of the games are up-and-down (the court) now. I watched six of the eight state championship games (in March) and with the exception of the last minute or so, the necessity of a shot clock just wasn’t there. Even the team that was winning wasn’t trying to hold the ball. But we are always open to those things that make games better for us.”

Former Charlotte 49ers head coach and N.C. State assistant Bobby Lutz is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

“I do like it,” he said, “just because I know for guys that want to play at the next level, it helps them prepare. I’m not like some who say it has to happen or the game’s terrible. ... I just think it adds a little pace to the game. I know some coaches may want to hold the ball because they want to win. That’s good individually for that team, but it’s better for the game to let the players play more and the shot clock ensures that happens.”

Sue Doran, the athletics director for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, is also a fan of the clock — for future collegians and for players who enjoy the game at the high school level.

“It makes teams have to be more efficient and I think it helps for the speed and tempo of the game,” she said. “But I’m also not biting at the bit for it to happen.”

Doran, like many shot-clock detractors, talks about the costs to add the clock, as well as the cost to have an additional person on site to run the clock.

“But if you ask my opinion,” she said, “I am a fan. It’s been good for every level of the game that’s adopted it. I think it would be good for high school partly for players that move on (to college). ... For those that don’t, it’s just a more efficient and better tempoed game.”

The NBA was the first league to adopt the shot, adding a 24-second clock in 1954 to speed up play. Average points per game jumped from 79 points in the 1953-54 season to 93 points in 1954-55.

Women’s college basketball added a 30-second clock in the 1970-71 season. Men got a 45-second clock in 1985 and then reduced it to 35 seconds eight years later.

How much longer will it be before high schools across the country go to a shot clock? At least one former high school basketball player hopes the clock becomes law soon.

Kyle Wood played at Providence Day for the past four seasons, playing in several out-of-state events that used the clock, including one tournament in Beijing, China. Even though Wood was going to college to play football at Washington & Lee, he felt the clock made the game better.

“In games where we had the clock,” he said, “the games were more competitive and more fun. It keeps the flow of the game really fast and uptempo and at the end of games, whenever a game’s close and there’s a shot clock, it forces the team that’s up to continue playing.

“If there’s no shot clock, it turns into four corners and hold the ball. Even though we did that at Providence Day plenty of times, I would love to have to keep playing and keep going.”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr