The clock is ticking.

Well, at least the game clock is.

The shot clock isn't.

But is it time for high school basketball in Louisiana to add a shot clock?

The answer to that depends on who you ask.

"I think adding the shot clock is a must," said Jason Bertrand, boys basketball coach at Sophie B. Wright High School. "We are in the 21st century and you have to change with the times. It's like cell phones and computers. Now it's time to go to the shot clock."

Mike Sommer, assignment secretary Baton Rouge Area Basketball Officials Association, would like to see it as well. He said it would bring more excitement to the game.

"Teams would not be able to just hold the ball," Somner said. "The players would have to play harder, because they would have to make a play within 30 seconds."

But for every shot clock proponent in the state, there is an equal number of those who strongly oppose it, like Chris Beckman, coach at Episcopal in Baton Rouge.

"When you add a shot clock, you’re taking high school basketball and making it more like college and NBA," Beckman said. "I’m looking at it from a purist standpoint. Right now the high school game is different than those levels."

Newman coach Jimmy Tillette sides with Beckman.

"I don't know if high school needs it," Tillette said. "When you reduce the clock beyond a certain level, you take the cerebral play out of the game."

Karen Hoyt, an assistant executive director of the LHSAA and former coach at Albany High, looked into some of the good and bad of adding a shot clock. Hoyt, whose teams played fast paced in her coaching days, was in favor of one. But after looking into it, she opted not to put a proposal on the LHSAA agenda.

“We were never a team to hold the ball," Hot said. "But after doing research on it and talking to coaches around the state, I can definitely see both sides. ... There are pros and cons. People say it would make it more like the college and pro game and that AAU does it. Are we trying to give teams a high school experience or an AAU experience? They are two different things."

Riverside coach Timmy Byrd, one of the state's most successful coaches, doesn't think it would change the game too much.

"It probably wouldn't be a bad thing," Byrd said. "I think most of the teams in Louisiana shoot it before the 30 seconds or 45 seconds or whatever you put on it anyway. Most teams don't guard for that long anyway, so they are playing within 30 seconds anyway. The only thing is if you do put the shot clock in, if you have a disparity in the quality of teams, then the scores will be much uglier."

Currently, only eight states (Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, California, North Dakota and South Dakota) play with a shot clock.

Wisconsin voted in June to become the ninth state to add a shot clock. But the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Control rescinded the vote in the fall after further looking into it.

"We had very fierce resistance and decided not to implement it," said WIAA executive director Dave Anderson.

The concerns in Wisconsin were the same as those heard from opponents in Louisiana.

They are usually three-fold:

There are the financial costs of paying for shot clocks.

First, there's cost to purchase and install shot clocks at every school. That price could range anywhere from $2,000-$3,500. That can be steep, especially in a state where athletic budgets at many schools are barely able to stay out of the red. And that doesn't include the cost it would take to hire an extra person to operate the clock.

"Some small schools struggle to get people to keep the official book and the game clock," Beckman said. "There would be training for the person who operates (the shot clock) and the officials.”

And then, there are those who are concerned that adding a shot clock alters the way the high school game is played. Playing without a shot clock can be an equalizer in high school hoops.

Tillette, who spent over 20 years coaching on the collegiate level, said adding a shot clock would take away from the game and doesn't think it's needed.

"You're always going to give the advantage to the more athletic team with a clock," Tillette said. "That means there will be less chances (for) teams with lesser abilities to stay in games. So I'd be very cautious if I were in high school if they established a shot clock. If you do it, it should be something like 40 seconds to at least give the little guy a chance."

Jason Kerr, who coaches at O'Dea High School in Seattle said coaches in Washington had similar concerns when the shot clock was implemented there for boys basketball in 2009. The girls in the state had been using a 30-second shot clock since the 1970s, but the boys added one (35 seconds) less than a decade ago. He was neutral about it back then, but now favors it.

"Some say you take away the advantage for an underdog," Kerr said. "For a certain style of basketball, it definitely changes teams that want to delay. But you won't find many coaches here saying it ruined the game."

Cindy Adsit, assistant executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, said the game is "definitely appreciated by the fans more."

Chances are, some of the changes would be more subtle than some many think.

"From 2009 to now, I think I have seen a total of 10 shot clock violations," Kerr said.

Newman, which plays a more slow-down style in its Princeton-based offense, had 55 possessions in its game against Sophie B. Wright on Wednesday night. Only five of those possessions lasted more than 35 seconds, the amount of time used on shot clock for boys games in the eight states that use it.

Dwayne Morton, who coaches at Lincoln high School in New York, says playing without a shot clock is not good for the game. Morton brought his team to New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic in early January and had to adjust to not playing without a shot clock.

"It's not real basketball, especially if your ultimate goal is to play in the NBA," Morton said. "It's just a different kind of basketball. Those states that don't have it are a little more patient and run their offense. The players in states that do have shot clocks have a better skill set. They know how to break their man down because you have to."

Proponents of a shot clock also point out that playing with a shot clock better prepares players for college, which implemented the shot clock in 1985.

Point guard Romin Williams, who played at Country Day in Metairie last season and now plays at Emory University, said a shot clock in high school would have prepared him better for college.

"Transitioning from high school to college is challenging due to stronger and faster players but having a shot clock would prepare Louisiana players for certain situations on offense," Williams said. "Holding the ball is not how college ball is and us Louisiana players need to learn how to score in quick possessions."

But as shot clocks opponents will likely point out, most high school players never play in college anyway.

A study conducted by the NCAA in March said only 3.4 percent of high school basketball players go on to play in college, including just 1 percent who play at the Division I level. The number is slightly higher on the girls side at 3.9 percent.

Regardless of that small number, first-year Southern-New Orleans coach and longtime high school coach Brian Gibson said adding a shot clock to high school would be an improvement.

"If you're looking for a better brand of basketball, the shot clock would be the way to go," Gibson said. The way the game has evolved, the fans want to see the ball go up and down the court. The shot clock lends to that."

But a shot clock doesn't seem to be headed to Louisiana any time soon.

LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine hasn't heard much chatter about it since taking over in 2015.

Bonine also pointed out that states with a shot clock forfeit their opportunity to sit on the basketball rules committee of the National Federation of High Schools Association. The reason for that is the shot clocks don't fall under the guidelines of the national federation.

Somner, the assignment secretary of the Baton Rouge Area Basketball Officials Association, welcomes the change, but knows it would take some adjusting. He remembers his first time officiating a college game.

"I was scared to death," he said. "Watching the players and the game clock is one thing. You only have to worry about the game clock at the end of quarters. Right now, we’re working to make sure we get blocks and charges right. Or traveling calls right.

"If you add a shot clock, that official has to watch those things and also peek at the 30-second clock. It’s a little like checking your rear view mirror in a car. It can be done. But I believe we would have to have at least a summer working with it and maybe a full year just to get everyone uses to it.”

Until then, let the debate continue: Shot clock or not.

Advocate sportswriter Robin Fambrough contributed to this story. 

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.

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