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Shot clock photo

The WIAA Board of Control voted 6-4 last week to use a 35-second shot clock for varsity games in boys and girls basketball beginning with the 2019-'20 season. 

Madison Edgewood girls basketball coach Lora Staveness was excited by the decision.

Madison Memorial boys basketball coach Steve Collins? Not so much.

The WIAA Board of Control’s 6-4 vote last week to implement use of a 35-second shot clock for boys and girls varsity basketball games beginning with the 2019-20 season created an unexpected summertime buzz.

“I’m old and set in my ways, but I love the shot clock,” Cuba City boys basketball coach Jerry Petitgoue tweeted. “Give it a chance. It will be great!”

Staveness, who just completed a two-year term on the coaches’ basketball advisory committee that voted unanimously for adding a shot clock, believes the time is right for the shot-clock addition, which she said will advance the quality of girls and boys basketball in the state and better prepare players, particularly elite players.

“I’m really excited for it,” said Staveness, whose team won the WIAA Division 3 girls state championship in March. “I think it will be a good thing. I know change is hard, but I think it will grow our game. It will bring a premium to not just coaching up your best players but all your players. It will be more work for coaches and players; you will have to get them ready for when they (have) the ball (in the final seconds of a possession).”

Staveness, who prefers a faster style, already has heard from fans who said they now will come to more prep games because they expect a more up-tempo pace of play.

“I just think it’s going to be fun, though initially it won’t be pretty at all games,” she said.

Some critics of the decision wondered if the decision was necessary. Other opponents pointed out that speeding up players likely will result in more bad shots and poor decisions. Plus, interesting strategic duels between opposing styles of play will diminish and less talented teams might have fewer options at their disposal to avoid lopsided outcomes.

Collins has used varied styles over the years. The Spartans — who dropped a 48-41 decision to eventual champion Stevens Point in a Division 1 state semifinal in March — relied on stingy defense and an offense that controlled tempo this past season.

“My initial reaction is that I don’t like it,” Collins said. “It changes the uniqueness of the high school game, which allows teams to match their strengths and abilities to a style of play. My teams have played every style imaginable. The result is everyone starts playing the same way and I don’t think we want to continue to make our high school game look like the professional and collegiate games.”

WIAA communications director Todd Clark said the move was made to help with the flow of games and that using a shot clock is a growing trend in other states.

The shot clock also would eliminate stalling or holding the ball, which sometimes happened at the end of quarters or when a team wanted its opponent to come out of a zone and play man-to-man defense.

Mineral Point school district superintendent and WIAA Board of Control member Luke Francois, who voted for the shot clock at last Thursday’s meeting, said holding the ball isn’t a well-respected strategy and has led to boos from crowds.

“That doesn’t create an atmosphere I want at games,” Francois said.

Francois, whose information gathering included conferring with coaches, said the shot clock was the “next inevitable step” in seeking to enhance the game. It was the second major change in high school basketball in the state after the WIAA approved the use of 18-minute halves, instead of four eight-minute quarters, in 2015.

Adding the shot clock wasn’t greeted with full support as the topic weaved its way through WIAA channels.

Clark said the coaches’ committee voted 8-0 for the shot clock — buoyed by a Wisconsin Basketball Coaches survey that had 81 percent of the respondents in favor — but the sports advisory council (12-2 against) and advisory council (15-0 against) were opposed. Those latter two groups, respectively, were primarily made up of athletic directors and then principals and superintendents, who had budgetary concerns chiefly in mind. The WIAA executive staff also was split in opinion.

Francois said the Board of Control’s debate and narrow vote also rested more with budgetary impacts than what the shot clock does to the game of basketball. Clark said the committees and the Board of Control remained mindful of the cost of adding shot clocks and people to work the clocks at state schools, and that was why the shot-clock implementation wound up moved from 2018-19 to 2019-20.

Estimates have ranged from about $2,000 to $4,000 for adding shot clocks at each school, though the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association is working to find a vendor or corporate sponsor to assist.

Staveness and Collins did agree about another decision that came out of last week’s meeting — the state basketball tournaments will be seeded starting next year.

“I think it is good to seed and I wish we could seed the largest possible group to have important matchups happen as late as possible,” said Collins, who continues to want the top eight Division 1 teams to play at the state tournament, rather than the top four.

Collins and Staveness, however, will remain on opposite sides of the shot clock debate for now, a point-counterpoint that was demonstrated by a poll that showed 52 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed to the shot clock.

But, tick-tock, change is coming, so coaches, players and spectators will need to adapt.

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