Prep Basketball

Most high school basketball coaches want a shot clock in Iowa

But there are hurdles that keep it from reality, for now

The majority of high-school coaches favor a shot clock at the high-school level. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
The majority of high-school coaches favor a shot clock at the high-school level. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

It’s about time. That’s how the majority of area high school basketball coaches feel about adding a shot clock to the sport in Iowa.

“It would promote faster-paced and more fun style of play for fans to watch,” said Ryan Luehrsmann, boys’ coach at Cedar Rapids Xavier.

On Dec. 10, The Gazette emailed a questionnaire to all area athletics directors, requesting them to pass it along to their boys’ and girls’ basketball coaches for response.

Forty-seven coaches returned the questionnaires, and a healthy majority of 70.2 percent said they either “strongly support” or “moderately support” a shot clock in Iowa.

Meanwhile, 21.3 percent either “strongly oppose” or “moderately oppose” the addition, and 8.5 percent marked themselves as “indifferent.”

Among boys’ basketball coaches, 80.7 percent are in support of a clock while the number drops to 57.1 percent among girls’ coaches.

Eight states have a shot clock — South Dakota, with a 35-second clock, is the only bordering state — and Wisconsin will add a 35-second clock in time for the 2019-20 school year.


Todd Tharp, assistant director for the Iowa High School Athletic Association, said there would be consequences for Iowa joining the growing shot-clock club.

“Our handbook states that we are required to follow the rules of the National Federation (of High Schools), as far as each sport is concerned,” he said. “Unless it is mandated by the NFHS, we wouldn’t make an adaptation to our playing rules.”

Any state that makes an adaptation, Tharp said, loses its national voting rights on rules with the NFHS.

The IHSAA is a full member of the NFHS, and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union is an associate member. So, unlike the IHSAA, the Girls Union would have nothing to lose.

But it’s hard to imagine a shot clock for girls’ basketball and not for boys.

“I’m not against (a shot clock) at all,” IGHSAU executive director Jean Berger said. “But I want to know, how would it improve the game? What problem are we trying to solve? What are we trying to fix?

“Would participation go up because it’s more up-tempo? If so, it’s something worth a look.”

South Dakota added a shot clock in 2016, and Jo Auch, South Dakota High School Athletic Association assistant director, called it “one of the smartest things we’ve done.”


Expense had been “one of the biggest issues,” she said. “We did some research, and most (clock) sets run between $2,300 and $4,000.”

Most shot clocks in South Dakota are located above the backboards, though some are on the gymnasium wall, next to the scoreboard.

Tharp said shot-clock discussion “raises its ugly head at the state tournament every year,” particularly after games in which a team takes the proverbial air out of the ball for long periods of time late in the fourth quarter or in overtime.

“(A shot clock) would make the end of games a lot more interesting when one team holds a slight lead in a close game,” Luehrsmann said.

On the other hand, some — like Williamsburg girls’ coach Aaron Feddersen — believe delay tactics “are part of the game, and if defenses don’t like it, they can do something about it.”

Other than end-of-game situations and games in which a team blatantly slows the tempo, the impact of a shot clock might be minimal.

Linn-Mar girls’ coach Nate Sanderson tracked possessions of the Lions’ game with Xavier on Dec. 7. He found only four of 129 combined possessions by the teams did not feature a shot attempt within 30 seconds.

Still, Sanderson is pro-shot clock.

“In the last four minutes of a game, teams would be able to play defense with hopes of getting a stop when trailing instead of having to foul to get the ball back,” he said.


Taking away late-game stalls and free-throw parades is one reason coaches favor the addition of shot clocks. They believe it will lend itself to more points and a better product, and also reward a team for playing strong defense for 30 or 35 seconds at a time.

Others aren’t so sure.

“The questions are, does it increase the tempo of the game? The score of the game? Field-goal percentage? I don’t think there’s data that shows that it does,” Tharp said.

Jacob Brindle, who coached the Cascade boys to a 2A state championship last season, did some fairly extensive research on the topic.

“The idea that a shot clock will lead to increased scoring is a fallacy, and in fact the data suggests otherwise,” Brindle said.

“The most recent data shows that of the top nine scoring states (combined winning and losing score), all are non-clock states, and nationally, both the winning and losing scores are, on average, higher in non-shot clock states.

“The limited data available actually shows that shot clocks lead to lower field-goal percentage and higher turnover percentage, as I would expect with kids playing faster.”

Despite the data, Brindle is in the minority.

“A shot clock offers the fans a faster-paced game with more offensive possessions and kids will enjoy playing that style more than a slowdown pace,” North Linn boys’ coach Mike Hilmer said. “It is in line with what kids will see in college basketball for those that go on to play more. I am always in favor of gearing our games in any sport to the higher level kids that want to move on and play at the next level.”


How they voted

Coaches who responded on the addition of a shot clock for Iowa high school basketball

AREA BOYS COACHES (26 responded)

Strong support: 16 (61.5 percent)

Moderate support: 5 (19.2 percent)

Indifference: 1 (3.8 percent)

Moderate opposition: 2 (7.7 percent)

Strong opposition: 2 (7.7 percent)


AREA GIRLS COACHES (21 responded)

Strong support: 6 (28.6 percent)

Moderate support: 6 (28.6 percent)

Indifference: 3 (14.3 percent)

Moderate opposition: 4 (19.0 percent)

Strong opposition: 2 (9.5 percent)



Strong support: 22 (46.8 percent)

Moderate support: 11 (23.4 percent)

Indifference: 4 (8.5 percent)

Moderate opposition: 6 (12.8 percent)

Strong opposition: 4 (8.5 percent)



What area coaches are saying

Josh Bentley, Cedar Rapids Prairie girls (moderately in favor)

“I feel it will continue to help with skill development of the game. You will see offense improve as possessions are more important. Execution will be a priority. Defensively, you will see more focus on not allowing easy baskets in transition in forcing a team into facing set defenses. The impact should be minimal outside of teams not being able to hold the ball, but instead learn to operate and execute in tight situations.”

Jacob Brindle, Cascade boys (moderately opposes)

“I’m basically indifferent, but would vote “no” if pressed. I would have no philosophical qualms with playing with a clock, and I don’t really think it would be that difficult to adjust; but, contrary to the narrative pushed by pro-clock supporters, there is not one shred of available data to support the notion that it will “improve” the high-school game, so we would basically be changing the game ‘just because.’”

Jim Calkins, North Fayette Valley girls (moderately opposes)

“I have been opposed because I think not having a clock can level the playing field. Example: We can delay against a team with superior talent. We want to minimize possessions. I also worry about cost and another person to run it.”

Tanner Carlson, Central City boys (strongly in favor)

“I think it will add to everything about the game at the high school level. More possessions equal more opportunities for players to make plays/learn how to play the game the right way. It also makes it more exciting for fans to watch. I do understand that there is added cost to adding a shot clock statewide, but I would still be in support of it.”

Brandon Clubb, Clear Creek Amana boys (strongly in favor)

“It encourages better half-court defense for shorter amounts of time. Kids can get bored or tired on long possessions now. Although I think you may see a dip in offense at first, it will force teams to run better actions with more urgency. The potential is there to play more players because the pace of the game will be faster. Most teams are playing under 35 seconds per possession anyway. Adding the clock would just add the urgency to every possession.”

James Doepke, Maquoketa girls (strongly in favor)

“It rewards the defense for playing hard for 30 seconds and making the offense take a contested shot. I am also in favor because it will lead to a more fast-paced game where defensive possessions only last 25-30 seconds as long as you control the defensive rebound.”

Aaron Feddersen, Williamsburg girls (strongly to moderately opposes)

“I don’t see possessions lasting longer than 35 seconds during the course of game. Delay tactics are part of the game. If defenses don’t like it, they can do something about it. Lots of high school teams don’t have the guards to actually keep the ball away from the defense if they really come after you. As an alternative, I think the focus should be on officials to call the closely guarded rule the way that it is written. Defenders only have to be within 6 feet of a ball handler for a 5-second count to start.”

Matt Fouch, Tipton boys (strongly in favor)


“We are doing our players a disservice in Iowa by not allowing them to play the same type of game they would at the next level. A shot clock allows for more possessions with more decision-making that will ultimately increase the level of basketball knowledge in our state. I believe it will also increase their skill development. Also, end of games would become more exciting as teams will be able to play defense and get the ball back instead of standing at the free-throw line.”

Mike Halac, Center Point-Urbana boys (strongly in favor)

“I believe it develops player individual skills more, which is always a positive. The first few years, points per game may drop, but the game and players will evolve to it. Also, I feel it rewards defenses for playing really quality defensive possessions for 30 seconds. It is going to change the way practices are run by coaches so it should be interesting to see how everyone adapts to it. Game planning should be much more important as well.”

Mike Hilmer, North Linn boys (strongly in favor)

“I am in favor because it keeps teams in the game longer. For example, if you are down 10 with no shot clock and five minutes to go, most teams will shoot only a layup and make it virtually impossible to catch up. Also, a shot clock offers the fans a faster-paced game with more offensive possessions and kids will enjoy playing that style more than a slowdown pace. Finally, it is in line with what kids will see in college basketball for those that go on to play more. I am always in favor of gearing our games in any sport to the higher level kids that want to move on and play at the next level. It prepares them for what they will see next and gives them the best chance to adapt to the next level of play.”

Jennifer Lange, Edgewood-Colesburg girls (moderately opposed)

“One of the major reasons I am opposed to the shot clock, especially in small schools, is the idea of finding a volunteer who truly understands how to run it, and all the rules associated with it. That is not as easy as it sounds. If there is an individual running it who makes mistakes with it, that can affect the outcome of a game.”

Corby Laube, Marion girls (strongly in favor)

1. Rewards teams who play great defense.

2. Eliminates some of the stalling tactics (holding the ball) which aren’t good for the game or players as a whole).

3. Every level (college, professional, international) have a shot clock already.

4. I anticipate other states going to a shot clock (some have) so I’d rather have Iowa be progressive rather than behind. Some of the Iowa high school players have and will enter college basketball not playing with a shot clock (unless they did in AAU) when others will enter college with that experience.

5. It will force coaches to teach skills rather than just pattern offenses. It fosters more assertiveness in offensive players to learn how to go by someone, create a shot and learn offensive moves in general. Coaches will be forced to teach skills and offensive moves instead of just implementing their system.

6. Better viewing experience for fans. Better tempo, more possessions, players looking to make plays.


7. A shot clock violation caused by the defense creates defensive excitement which is good for the girls game. Similar to taking a charge or a dunk.

8. End of games ... teams who are behind won’t need to start fouling earlier to put teams on the line. When you see this with 2-3 minutes left to play it can get long ... not sure basketball was intended to be a free throw contest at end of games.

9. I know many have varying opinions on AAU, but many of our girls do prefer the pace of the AAU game. They get frustrated by the pace and style of play in high school at times.

Tom Lilly, Cedar Rapids Xavier girls (opposes)

“I am in favor of changing the girls’ game closer to college women. Things like timeouts move the ball to the front court, five fouls (per quarter), shoot two free throws. The issue with the shot clock though is one more person on the bench running something along with officials having to do one more thing to handle. I am not in favor.”

B.J. Mayer, Iowa City West girls (strongly in favor)

“I think that more players will be needed because teams will not be able to kill a minute or more per possession. It will create more action in games especially late in games with a close score.”

Bill McTaggart, Iowa City High girls (indifferent)

“If we did implement a shot clock, I would recommend one for 35-40 seconds so that strategy would not be taken away from inferior teams who plan on a ball-control offense. I don’t know how feasible it would be, considering it is very difficult now to find scorekeepers and clock managers.”

Nick Merritt, Springville boys (indifferent)

“This is a difficult one to answer because I’m really on both sides of the fence on this because I can see the challenges but can also see the benefits.

“The biggest concerns I have in regards to the shot clock are funding and adequate shot clock operators. Those reasons have me in the indifferent range because I think those are pretty big issues to address. I do feel the cost piece is something that can be worked out, but I think it’ll be quite the challenge to get the correct shot clock operators in place.


“On the flip side, if those issues could be resolved in some fashion, I think the idea of putting a shot clock is very intriguing. At times, we see teams run a delay game for minutes on end to run a clock out. With the rules regarding contact on the perimeter, it gets very difficult to put a lot of pressure on the ball without being called for fouls. Given that is something as coaches we need to teach, but it can be challenging when officials are tasked with cleaning up physical play.

“I know some believe that this may make the game more sloppy and teams may force shots, but I think like with most rules changes, teams/coaches will adjust and it won’t be drastically different. I think you could argue that some teams that try to be patient on offense can be very sloppy as well, overpass, and pass up on good shots to be more patient and throw up poor shots as well. So, I’m less concerned about how this will affect how the game will look.”

Scot Moenck, Maquoketa Valley girls (strongly in favor)

“I think it would bring more offense to the game. It forces teams to look to score. We have too many teams that like to hold the ball, especially late in the game. It also forces coaches to be more strategic.”

Carletta Nymeyer, Turkey Valley girls (strongly opposes)

“I oppose because I feel it takes away from possible strategies of the game. I also oppose it for high school girls specifically because I feel with their wide range of skill levels, it will increase the chances of slopped play and limit the ‘team’ aspect of the game.”

Stu Ordman, Iowa City Liberty boys (strongly opposes)

“I oppose because it is one more technical part to mess up during a game; the officials seem to have their hands full with current game and calling shot clock violations would make their task more difficult; we would need either a paid or volunteer position to run the shot clock every game at every level and it is already a scramble to cover score book and clock. The game moves fine as it is. A less talented team may want longer possessions, and good for that team. Gives that team a chance to compete against more athletic, more talented teams. Seems to me that the high schools who traditionally field more talented teams really want the clock. Why? Because it gives them a better chance of winning. It helps them avoid upsets. I believe the argument that it is more fun for the fan is a red herring. Most true fans would rather see a competitive game than a blowout.”

Nate Sanderson, Linn-Mar girls (moderately in favor)

“The most significant impact a 30-35 second shot clock would have is on end-quarter and end-game situations. Particularly in the last four minutes of a game, teams would be able to play defense with hopes of getting a stop when trailing instead of having to foul to get the ball back. (Holding the ball) is an effective strategy given the current state of the rules, and certainly we take the air out of the ball with 3:00 to go and a lead, but it’s not good for the game.

“I would even be in favor of a shot clock at the state tournament only — even if we didn’t use one during the regular season — for that reason alone. Nobody seems to have a problem with players competing on a larger playing area at the state tournament even though it definitely affects the game, why not use the shot clocks there to prevent teams from holding the ball forever. Even a 45-second shot clock would be better than nothing in that situation.”

Mike Sconsa, Cascade girls (indifferent)

“I really do not care either way. It will not change what we want to do. I really don’t think it will increase scoring a lot (better players and strong execution create more scoring for teams). I think the only aspect of the game it will change is the last 4 minutes of the game. More teams will press and run quick-hit actions late in the shot clock. It would not be hard to train someone to use it and I am sure with adequate warning, schools could afford the cost. May want to do a trial year in the MVC or CIML to see how it goes. It will happen in Iowa, but not going to change what matters most in the game.”

Tom Squiers, Lone Tree boys (strongly in favor)


“It ends the stalling technique used at the end of games or in overtime, which to me makes the game more entertaining, a team with a lead under five points could no longer hold the ball for the final two minutes, secondly it would increase player development, and last it would prepare them for the college level if you have players who are at that level.

“My only downside as an AD is the increased cost in purchasing the equipment as well as finding and paying someone to run the shot clock.”

Patrick Sullivan, Lansing Kee boys (strongly opposes)

“I do not think it is needed at the high school level.”

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