Public schools' introduction of shot clock for boys basketball accelerates learning curve

Public schools are adding the 35 second shot clock to boys basketball games. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun video)

One night after limiting eventual Class 4A state champion Perry Hall to a season-low 47 points last season, the Patterson boys basketball team held DuVal to 20last year.

Strong defense and poor shooting by their opponents contributed to the measly totals, but there was another factor: the Clippers ability to control the game’s flow with a patient half-courtoffense.


Particularly against the Tigers, from Prince George’s County, the Clippers intentionally ate up clock with good ballhandling and swift passes in their sets. If a good look at the basket wasn’t available, they would kick the ball back out and start over.

Often that night, a minute or more would go by before the Clippers put up a shot. It proved good preparation for protecting slim leads down the stretch in big games as they won the Baltimore City title and Class 2A state crown.

Patterson point guard Gerard Mungo with the 35-second shot clock in the background.
Patterson point guard Gerard Mungo with the 35-second shot clock in the background. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

It’s just a matter of getting into our sets earlier and executing more and being aware of the shot clock so we know when to take the shot we want.

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But the strategy won’t be used any longer.

In May, the state’s public schools athletic officials approved a 35-second shot clock for boys basketball this season. The public schools join the area’s private school leagues, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Baltimore Catholic League, which adopted a 35-second clock in 2012.

One of the most important benefits of the change is getting high school players acclimated to the college game, which has used a shot clock since 1985. The clock was originally 45 seconds, then reduced to 35 in 2003 and has been 30 since 2015.

“It’s going to help the kids and our job is to help them get prepared for the next level,” Lake Clifton coach Herman “Tree” Harried said. “You want them to be able to abide by all the rules at the next level, so I think this will help them get acquainted with the shot clock they’ll see at the collegiate level.”

A look at the area's top boys basketball players leading up to the 2017-18 season.

While the majority of the possessions in area games never reached 35 seconds in the past, strategies will still change.

Some instances in the past, teams would be willing to hold the ball and wait for opposing defenses to come out of their packed zones. In the final minutes of games, when a team had a reasonable lead, it would prefer to eat up clock.

With those no longer options, coaches this preseason have been preparing their teams with new strategies and simple clock awareness.

With just under a minute left in any given quarter, if a team can get up a good shot quickly, it has the chance of getting the final possession in the closing seconds. When a team is down late, a coach will now have to determine whether to have his team clamp down on defense or foul to stop the clock.

Perry Hall is the No. 1 ranked team in The Baltimore Sun's 2017-18 boys basketball preseason Top 15 poll.

“If you’re down three or four points and there’s two minutes to go, I don’t have to go out and cover [man-to-man]. I can still just sit back and they’re eventually going to come to us and get a shot off,” Patterson coach Harry Martin said.

Woodlawn coach Bobby Richardson said the change was overdue and “it’s going to make the coaches coach and players play.”

He added: “It’s going to be some adjustments needed to be made, but they are all favorable. You’re going to have to get into your offense earlier. You’re going to have to play and not be able to stall, and that’s good for the game.”

Patterson scrimmaged Dulaney last week and learned a lesson. Martin called timeout with 15 seconds left on the shot clock, but he and his staff forgot to mention to the players how much time was left. The Clippers ended up getting called for a violation.

“Coaches and players, you actually have to train yourself to look at the clock during each possession because you’re not used to it,” he said.

As some college teams do, Glen Burnie reminds players on the court of the time by having the bench start to count loudly when the Gophers have the ball and the clock gets to 10 seconds.

Many area counties have different styles of play, so some will be affected more than others by the shot clock.

For example, Anne Arundel County teams have traditionally raced up and down the court with quicker possessions resulting in higher final scores. In Howard County, some teams play more methodically in patient half-court sets, slowing the flow and resulting in lower scores.

River Hill coach Matt Graves runs the Princeton-style offense, which eats up clock while the Hawks patiently seek the best shot.

“It’s going to speed up the game with a lot more possessions and a lot more scoring . … It’s fun for the game and fun for the fans,” he said. “We’re still running the stuff that I have since the mid-2000s, but now we’re putting it in the back of our heads that we can’t run it through five or six times.”

Patterson senior guard Gerard Mungo played with a shot clock over the summer and welcomes the change.

“It’s just a matter of getting into our sets earlier and executing more and being aware of the shot clock so we know when to take the shot we want,” he said. “It’s better because when teams are up, they can’t just hold the ball. They have to take shots and that gives the other team a better chance to get back in the game.”

Martin believes the change will put players into position to get a better understanding of the game, something that will benefit them at the next level.

“This adds another piece where it gets them to think more about the score, the time, the situation of what’s going on. And they’re really going to have to do it on every possession,” he said.

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