By Alex Strouf, The Denmark News

Tick-tock.

Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) boys and girls varsity basketball will add a 35-second shot clock, beginning with the 2019-20 season. The addition has gained intrigue amidst controversy.

Wisconsin joins California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, and most recently, Washington in limiting possession times. Washington implemented the use of a shot clock for boys varsity play in the 2009-10 season, exactly ten years before the Wisconsin preps will use it. Varsity girls basketball has been using a shot clock in Washington for well over a quarter-century.

Dan Taylor, president of the Washington Girls Basketball Coaches Association, has coached girls and boys in Washington both before and after the shot clock rule was put into effect.

“It has made the game more exciting, believe it or not, on both ends of the floor,” said Taylor. “It has allowed the coaches to strategize better.”

Washington Boys Basketball Coaches Association president Nalin Sood claims that a shot clock gives extra motivation for the players.

“One of the results of the shot clock in my opinion and also how we play as a program is we can defend harder and more aggressive knowing that there is a “pot of gold” if you can sustain for 35 seconds of forcing teams to bad shots,” said Sood. “That has been beneficial for our program.”

The aforementioned strategy is one of the biggest things a shot clock will change inside the game. Denmark varsity boys basketball coach Cody Stelmach noted that things can change on both sides of the ball.

“Pressing will play a bigger role in games because you can force teams to have to take their time getting it up the court,” said Stelmach.

Denmark sophomore guard Brady Jens drives past defenders. (Photo by Ambrosius Studios)

“Defensively it will be nice to have the mindset that you have to defend for 35 seconds, get a block out, and you’re done. Mentally it will help.”

A big part is eliminating what’s become known as, “stall ball.”

Last year, member coaches brought the proposal of a shot clock to the WIAA Board of Control. After the coaches voted unanimously to bring the idea to the next level, it was brought to the board. Last week, the ten-member WIAA board voted, and passed the movement with a 6-4 ruling.

This comes after lots of criticism has occurred, especially in tournament play, of stall ball.

In the 2016 Division 2 regional semifinal between Antigo and Rhinelander, the final score was 14-11. The two teams, in 36 minutes, combined for 25 points. Antigo held the ball for over seven minutes at one point in the game.

That was a game that received statewide and even nationwide attention. That wasn’t due to the awesome defense, but the ridiculously low score.

Signs point to the fact that this may be as a result of such examples.

“From a structural, functional perspective, it came to the board as a result of our normal processes for discussion, evolution, and change within our season regulations,” said WIAA executive director Dave Anderson.

Anderson, the 63-year-old director and 18-year veteran of the WIAA noted that he believes the shot clock will become a regular thing, just like the three-point line did when he was playing basketball as a high schooler.

“We believe that in a few years, when some of us older people move on and move out of these roles, it will be accepted. Most of the kids that play basketball don’t know the game without a [shot clock],” said Anderson. “No kids today have ever watched college or professional basketball where there wasn’t a shot clock. Increasingly, there’s very few parents of high school students that don’t understand the beauty, discipline, and skill of the strategic slowdown.”

Obviously, a 6-4 vote is a slim margin, but still a passing margin. Anderson also said how he has gotten a mixed reaction and has had about a half-dozen phone calls from member coaches all over the state regarding the rule.

“What I can tell you is that for every big decision that has confronted this membership in my time, the members have been about 50-50,” Anderson said. “Some like it, some don’t.”  

Anderson noted a heavy concern in the cost, which is the largest reason the WIAA is waiting two full seasons until this change is completely in effect. According to Anderson, the cost for each school should be “in the ballpark of $2,000” to implement shot clocks.

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As the rule is just underway, there is no particular way the shot clock needs to be a part of the field of play; whether hanging on the scoreboard, installed as a part of the backboard, or placed atop the scorer’s table. Also involved with the cost concern, an operator for the shot clock may need to be hired.

The WIAA voted to suspend member dues in the spring of 2015. In the 2014-15 school year, the WIAA received over $420,000 in these fees, only to return over $2.6 million to member schools that same year.

The Association removed these fees in hopes to give schools financial stability to host new programs, purchase new equipment, and fund their programs comfortably.

This is an instance where that is necessary.

“Due to our elimination of members dues and fees, the past two years and the next two years, some of the bite that might come from this might be lessened a little bit,” Anderson said.

Taylor and Stelmach, along with Anderson and his WIAA counterparts, are all confident that this change will soon be embraced by not only Wisconsinites, but high schools across the country.