By Paul Lecker
STEVENS POINT — The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Board of Control voted at its meeting on June 22 to implement a 35-second shot clock for varsity high school basketball games beginning in the 2019-2020 season.
Wisconsin will become the ninth state to have a shot clock for high school basketball.
While the reaction has been mixed from fans on social media, Marshfield High School girls basketball coach Heidi Michaelis said she was in favor of the change.
“I think it’s good for the game,” said Michaelis, who has a 293-90 record in 16 seasons at the helm. “It doesn’t really change my philosophy, although I have been known to grind out long possessions at the end of the game. It takes that ability away, but I think it keeps the game moving and exciting.
“Most of the time, I like playing faster anyway, so it doesn’t change much. Realistically, turnovers occur anyway during long possessions.”
Marshfield High School Athletic Director Nathan DeLany said the process began with a recommendation by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association to implement the shot clock beginning in the 2018-2019 season. The idea first went to the coaches committee, which voted in favor of it unanimously, and then went to a pair of advisory boards that voted against it. The Board of Control had the final say and voted 6-4 for the measure during last week’s annual June meeting.
The implementation was pushed back a year, to 2019-2020, to give member schools more time to find funds for the new equipment and to adequately train staff to run the clock.
The placement of the clocks has yet to be finalized, and DeLany said he did not know if they would be required to be in a certain spot at all gyms.
DeLany said his early estimate for the cost is approximately $3,500, and he would like to have everything in place by the end of the 2018-2019 season so that the Marshfield teams and coaches can have access to it during the summer of 2019.
“Some smaller schools have expressed concerns with the cost and having to have another person trained at the scoring table, which is an ongoing cost,” DeLany said. “I think it will both help and hurt the game. It should make for more fluid games and better basketball. I don’t necessarily disagree with some of that. It should bring more flow to games, but some teams, based on talent, have to play a certain way, (more deliberately).
“I think there will be more blowouts and eliminate teams that are methodical and want to slow it down. I thought a 45-second clock would have been perfect, allowing teams to work through the clock if that’s the way they play.”
The addition of the shot clock will be the second recent major change to basketball in Wisconsin, as high school games went to 18-minute halves, rather than eight-minute quarters, beginning in the 2015-2016 season. That rule change was designed to improve the flow of the game and eliminate teams holding on to the ball for long periods at the end of quarters. The shot clock will no doubt do that as well, changing strategy for a lot of teams.
Marshfield varsity boys basketball coach Scott Scheuer said he does not see it being a problem for the way he coaches, stating that by looking at some tape from last season, the Tigers typically averaged between 24 and 26 seconds to put up a shot.
“That varies from year to year, depending on who is playing and who you are playing,” said Scheuer, who led the Tigers to a 30-18 combined record the past two seasons, including an appearance in the WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinals last year. “We’ve (coaches) been talking about it for a while. I don’t know if it improves the game. Teams that aren’t as talented are at a disadvantage, and I think there will be more lopsided games. The quality coaches will still be quality coaches and will figure it out.”
Other decisions made by the WIAA Board of Control concerning winter sports included seeding the boys and girls basketball, boys hockey, and team wrestling state tournaments by the participating coaches beginning in the 2017-2018 season; to further discussion on a basketball tournament placement model that would categorize teams into “city,” “suburban,” “town,” and “rural” that could shake up placements in Divisions 3-5; and a two-year experiment for having two divisions for the boys hockey playoffs and state tournament beginning in 2020.
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.