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Local prep coaches differ on if the shot clock, coming for the 2023-24 season, is a good thing or a bad thing

ANDY DIECKHOFF  - Maikel Poland, 25, a Madras White Buffalo junior. His coach, Nick Brown, thinks the impending shot clock will overall be a good thing for the prep game in Oregon and its fans.  All the social media debates can finally be put to rest — or maybe new ones can start — when it comes to a shot clock in Oregon high school basketball.

On Monday, Sept. 12, the OSAA executive board unanimously voted to approve a 35-second shot clock for Oregon hoops beginning in the 2023-2024 season.

The vote came after years of momentum toward bringing in the shot clock through changes from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and polling of athletic directors and coaches from around the state.

The NFHS' old rule used to say that a state using a shot clock would be out of compliance and the state organization would lose its spot on the national rules committee. That rule has since been changed to allow states to make decisions on the shot clock with no national punishment.

Couple that with a survey done by the Oregon Athletic Directors Association (OADA) that resulted in a 115-69 vote in favor of the shot clock, and there was plenty of desire to make the change.

"It seems like it's the culmination of some input and different things we've seen come together," OSAA executive director Peter Weber said. "We know some, not all, but the majority of coaches have been looking for this for some time."

In Jefferson County, news of the impending shot clocks has gotten varied reviews. Madras High School boys and girls varsity coaches applaud the coming of the clock while Culver athletic director and boys basketball coach Alex Carlson is against it.

"I am not a big fan of the shot clock.  In our Tri-River Conference League meetings, we voted as a conference unanimously last spring to not have shot clocks," said Carlson. "It is a big added expense to our budget to buy shot clocks but it is also an added expense to have another person running the shot clock at every game.  I don't think adding a shot clock will add to the competitiveness of games."

Madras boys coach Nick Brown has a different perspective.

"I am mostly excited for the shot clock in Oregon high school basketball. I think it will create a better watching experience for our fans across the state by eliminating stalling," said Brown. "As a coach and program that likes to play more up-tempo anyway, I think it will have less of an impact for our games. But will still make a big difference in late game and late shot clock situations. 

While the NFHS rule change and the OADA poll helped provide ammunition for a change, Lake Oswego boys basketball coach Marshall Cho believes the momentum truly started with the coaches.

Former Westview boys basketball coach Pat Coons helped start the Oregon Basketball Coaches Association in the spring of 2016 with the goal of giving head coaches in the sport around the state a collective voice, rather than a rag-tag of social media comments.

In Cho's eyes, the work done by Coons and the OBCA in getting the shot clock is an example of what coming together for a common goal can do.

"We're the caretakers of the game currently. Our association exists to give us a voice and having a say in what we think is best for the game," Cho said. "We followed the process that the OSAA set out, we utilized the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association that advocates for coaches in the state, and our voice was heard."

With the vote passed, the next step is actually pulling it off. And the biggest hurdles are the ones that were commonly heard from the opposition of putting in shot clocks — and it reflects back to Carlson's concerns.

Money is always an important topic with schools, and the price of a shot clock has been reported to be anywhere between $2,000-$5,000.

Weber said the OSAA doesn't plan on helping with any direct dollars to schools that have trouble paying for the clocks, but the organization plans to work alongside any district that might need help.

"Not in terms of actual dollars to them, but working with our marketing and our PR people and the relationships they have with equipment companies that have those products," Weber said on OSAA support. "Trying to focus on providing the best pricing that could be available, working that kind of angle with the schools."

The next partial financial hurdle will be paying an extra person to run a separate shot clock for each game, or finding volunteers in each community.

Some athletic directors have voiced that might not always be possible, but starting in 2023-2024, it will be required.

Another popular argument against the shot clocks has been that it takes coaching out of the game and allows players to freestyle more.

In the eyes of Madras girls basketball head coach Jerin Say, that isn't necessarily the case. Instead, it's developing players in a way that is more beneficial to their individual games.

"I like the skill development side of basketball — not just coaching the Xs and Os, but the skill development of the individual player," Say said. "You've got to start working with your players now. The more skills you have on your team, the more options you have when facing a shot clock, when it's winding down."

As for the impact on the game, Cho is excited to see the change for not only his squad, but the whole state.

"What I think about often, having coached overseas in a third-world country like Mozambique, is seeing players in that country at a youth level using the 24-second shot clock and realizing that the rest of the world is playing at an even faster tempo," Cho said. "They're getting more repetitions with that decision-making and playmaking. … This is the first step toward really getting caught up with the rest of the world."

Moving forward, coaches for the shot clock have also argued that it will develop their players better for college and recruitment. California and Washington have already been using shot clocks for the past few years, and Idaho, Montana and Utah are also in line to start using the clock.

Implementing the shot clock in Oregon allows players in the Beaver State to keep up with the players around them to stay competitive in the recruiting market, but more importantly, be prepared for that next step.

"There's a lot of good basketball players on the women's side here in Oregon," Say said. "This gets them ready for the college level, as well. It puts them on a competitive scale nationally. … It adds to that scouting report that college coaches are looking at. It might seem small and minute, but it could be the difference."

Looking ahead, Cho is happy to see the OBCA make a difference in the state, and learn from the process it took to make a change.

With the shot clock under their belts, Cho believes the OBCA will continue to make positive changes for the game around Oregon.

"(Coons) started the association, he brought a handful of us in to volunteer and help, and it was really about not just sitting on the sideline and complaining about things — but actually rolling up the sleeves, learning the process, and then advocating and lobbying in the right channels to make something like this possible," Cho said. "I look forward to seeing what the association can accomplish next for the kids in our state."

Wrestling back at coliseum

The state wrestling tournaments are returning Feb. 23-25 to Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland this upcoming season after the tournaments were canceled in 2021 due to COVID and then last season were held at five different high schools across the state.

The return to the Rose Garden area is mostly seen as a positive move to help celebrate the sport on a state-wide scale.

"It's similar to when we have the swimming championships and everybody's together or the track and field championships and everybody's together," Weber said. "To have that atmosphere for the sport is just a great event."

Tony Ahern and Andrew Dieckhoff contributed to this story.


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