Innovation in basketball is largely influenced by the rules governing the game. From the Original 13 Rules to the NIT Experiment there is always a discussion for how to improve the game. The first contest ever recorded finished 5 to 1, compare that now to the top defensive-rated teams in the NBA keeping opponents right above 100 points per game.

Let’s face it, we could independently re-write the rules ourselves and still feel slighted throughout the course of a game – #WorkTheOfficials.  With consideration to where the game is going with regard to athleticism, style of play, and international popularity here are three areas of focus for #FutureRuleChanges:

  1. Uniformity
  2. Pace of Play
  3. Integrity of the Game

Start with the Shot Clock

Between the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), NCAA, NBA, & FIBA there are a variety of interpretations for largely the same set of rules defining the game – and for the record, I’m not going near the travel violation. Of the four governing bodies predominantly determining the rules of the sport, the NFHS is the only organization not supporting a shot clock. Even at the grassroots level, USA Basketball encourages adopting a shot clock for competitions at the earliest age of 12-years old. Yet still, there are only 9 states with high school athletic associations using a shot clock.

“Although there are some arguments for implementing the shot clock, the NFHS Basketball Rules Committee, similar to the other 14 NFHS rules committees, must make decisions based on what is best for the masses – the small schools with less than 100 students as well as large urban schools with 3,000-plus students. Rules changes will always be made with considerations for minimizing risks, containing costs and developing rules that are best for high school athletes.” Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff (Executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations)

The clip above took place in Ohio. However, I played and coached high school basketball in Kentucky where the shot-clock also does not exist; currently coaching in the state of Massachusetts where there are 30 seconds per possession. It is from my experiences where I form the opinion that basketball played at the high-school level should have a shot clock.

Arguments against a shot clock:

  1. Budget constraints to install and operate
  2. Not in compliance with NFHS Rules
  3. Competitive gap
  4. It is part of the game – “Go play defense!”

This is a coach’s website for the coaching community I am not going to go too far in-depth on the feasibility to install a shot clock in every high school. That being said of the 9 states that do embrace a shot clock are California and Rhode Island. Not to oversimplify the logic here, but if each school district had to come up with the funds for a shot clock in their gym next year; I would be pretty confident that the states somewhere in between the aforementioned could figure it out.

Sticking with the conditions of consideration for #FutureRuleChanges: uniformity – pace of play – integrity of the game. The lack of a shot clock deviates from the rest of the world playing the game preventing uniformity. We have come a long way from paper scoreboards showing 5 to 1; clearly, a time limit per possession would keep with the times in regards to pace of play. The concept of pace of play does not only refer to the tempo of the game; it is in addition to developing student-athletes’ decision-making at a higher rate consistently. The integrity of the game is where it gets most divisive amongst coaches and fans. At the moment, the rules do not impose a shot clock for the majority of states across the country competing at the high school level. It is the coach’s responsibility to identify the best strategy to put their student-athletes in a position to win. So, playing stall ball to reduce the number of possessions potentially neutralizing the competitive gap is a reasonable attempt to stay within range to win. At the end of the day, it is an agree-to-disagree situation when it comes to coaching philosophies. If our personnel versus the opponents reveals that our best effort was not good enough based on the scoreboard, then we have that far to go to improve our habits. Coaching strategies certainly still exists with a shot clock; it could be argued that more variables come into play with the element of time constraints on each possession. Nonetheless, the integrity of the game is intended to be inherently competitive and holding the ball seems to suggest otherwise.

Rant of Rule Changes

Charge / Block

Most misunderstood call in the game

Change the official’s animated punch signal to a boring “C” for charge and evaluate the difference in results. Bring back Player Control Foul. Stop rewarding a defender for sliding in under a controlled offensive player. If the goal is to protect the players and encourage offense, why are inciting collisions from quality scoring attempts?


If you want to reduce it, stop rewarding it

Like a kid clamoring for attention – stop acknowledging it. There is not a move in any skill-trainer’s (and there are a lot of unique methods out there) arsenal to teaching athletes to throw their heads back while dribbling, outside of baiting an official for a foul. It is not gaining an advantage and there is not enough physical contact from a defender that ever warrants an offensive player to emulate old-school Pez candy dispensers – let it go.

Moving Screens

The NBA has popularized the hip-check

Screens should be simple to evaluate, particularly off-the-ball. They should be set stationary and within the frame of a shoulder-width stance. This may be my one-and-only rule favoring the defense. With the enhancement of perimeter playmaking ability at all levels, a screen being set can put the defense at an immediate disadvantage. And what used to challenge the agility of defenders cat-like maneuvering to an offensive player around human-like pillars are now becoming more difficult with late shift in the hips or false intent to cut or roll. The rules are already set catering towards higher point-production there is not to allow movie-like obstacles with rolling 6’9 frontcourt players or targeted blur screens.

Digital Officiating

Keep the human-error. The beauty of the game is in the imperfections.

Let me clarify because I could see this one being a hot-button issue for many that advocate the increase of replay. Replay is not for judgment calls when it comes to player violations (e.g. travels, handchecks, or moving screens). Replay should be used more for confirmation of a rule that is black & white (e.g. stepping out of bounds, buzzer-beater releases, or out of bounds). There is overlap between the two and I understand the more replay is used for judgment calls the less reason there is for an official to be out there. And I struggle understanding why there are so many humans that put themselves through that sort of critique night in and night out; the participation numbers suggest the same.

Final Thoughts

Basketball is in a pretty good place right now. The rules are intentionally structured to support offensive production without allowing much defensive interference to prevent points – despite my evidence for the charge call as ‘Exhibit A.’ As far as anything that may be on the horizon that could be a complete shift in the game. Here are my final two thoughts:

  1. Never let the 4-point shot become a thing
  2. The Elam Ending will happen at one point

There are so many rules in particular that we could break down and debate. Here are a few that you may or may not already have heard circulating:

  • Maine high-school basketball strict on dunking (*particularly during postseason)


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