The Boys State Basketball tournament second round action continues today. Photo Courtesy: Krystin Collins


A short story about the addition of the shot clock to high school basketball games

The Nebraska Schools Activities Association (NSAA) implemented a shot clock for Class A teams during the 2022-23 season in hopes of making games faster paced and more exciting for the players and fans. 

This season was the first that Class A schools in Nebraska utilized a shot clock in high school basketball. The smaller schools in Nebraska (Class B, C and D) still play without a shot clock. 

A shot-clock is not a new concept in basketball, and has been around in professional basketball since the 1950s. A shot clock limits the time a team can have possession of the ball every time they are on offense, which in turn guarantees each team gets more possessions. And in Nebraska, the timer was implemented last season for the first time, with mixed results. 

The shot clock for Class A teams in Nebraska is 35 seconds long, which is the standard high school shot clock time. In comparison, the NBA shot clock is 24 seconds, while colleges use a 30-second shot clock. 

Over the last five years, I can say it was rare to have the ball for more than 30-seconds a possession before we took a shot or turned it over,” former Nebraska City head coach, Justin Parr said. “35 seconds is a lot longer than most people understand.”

Basketball without a shot clock can become a game of keep-away from the other team. For example, a high school game between Weatherford and Anadarko (Oklahoma) on Feb. 7 finished with a score of 4-2. These teams were two of the higher ranked boy’s varsity teams in Oklahoma. This is an outlier, but there were no rules in place to stop either team from just dribbling the ball around. Teams in Nebraska are allowed to do the same thing.

“When we played Winnebago in the 2018 state tournament, they had possession of the ball 90% of the second half,” former Class C point guard for Syracuse, Trevor Brinkman said. “Their strategy was to build a lead, and play keep-away the rest of the game. It was the only game I played in at the state tournament, and it was not a fun game to be a part of.”

In the 2022 state tournament, the last state tournament without a shot clock, Class A games averaged 113.6 points per game, between both teams. Class A teams scored 120.3 points per game in the 2023 state tournament. The average score differential of Class A games in the 2022 state tournament was 10.7, while the average score differential was 18.3 in 2023. The addition of the shot clock led to more scoring and more blowouts.

“I personally thought that the shot clock should be implemented at all classes just because that’s the way the game is now,”  said Aidan Wheelock, a former Class C player and current lead scout for NxtPro Nebraska.

Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Rhode Island, North and South Dakota, Washington and California all use a shot clock in high school basketball. One reason that schools are skeptical to implement a shot clock is the price tag. Colleges and NBA teams use a clock above the scoreboard to show the players how much time they have to get a shot off. A shot clock mounted about the scoreboard costs a school around $30,000, and installation prices cost another $28,00, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

“A real issue is that some Class C and D schools may not have a gym that is equipped to handle a shot clock due to the size of the gym or accessibility,” Parr said.

Even with this barrier in the way, fans and players could see the addition of the shot clock upon all classes in the upcoming years. Spring and summer leagues in Nebraska often use shot clocks, and a few class D schools have a shot clock installed in their gym already.

“The shot clock would affect the lower classes more since it is a slower pace,” Wheelock said.

One of the biggest factors when thinking about adding a shot clock is to help the athletes who want to play at the next level. Since both college and professional basketball use a shot clock, having the shot clock in high school would better prepare the athletes to play at the collegiate level. In total, high school games are 32 minutes, college games are 40 minutes and NBA games are 48 minutes. 

“Basketball is fast paced with or without the shot clock, but I like the balance it creates for the game,” Parr said. “It prepares those that want to play ball at the next level.” 

It is the first year that Class A used a shot clock during the high school season. Class A schools usually have a roster of better athletes, especially compared to Class C and D. The addition of the shot clock might change the game more for smaller schools, however it is an addition that has been advocated for by fans and players.