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BASKETBALL: Shot clocks coming to MSHSL in 2023 -- is Bemidji ready?

On the clock -- Shot clocks are coming to Minnesota high school basketball. How will they change the sport?

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The Bemidji High School boys basketball team prepares to play St. Francis on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Shot clocks are coming to Minnesota high school basketball. How will they change the sport?

We won’t know for sure until at least the 2023-24 season, when the new 35-second countdown clocks are scheduled to be adopted by teams in the Minnesota State High School League. After years of contentious debate and a number of failed attempts, the MSHSL Board of Directors on Thursday, Dec. 2, unanimously approved a motion to mandate the implementation of shot clocks at the varsity level, starting in two years.

“The one thing that I do like about it is that the end of the game situation will change,” said BHS boys basketball coach Steve Thompson. “You don't have to foul early. The game is evolving, and they play it with a shot clock at the next level. And it's a good way to prepare kids for that.”

Steve Schreiber, Bemidji’s girls coach, thinks the implementation of the new timers will help improve upon the foundation of elite basketball talent that Minnesota has produced in recent years -- such as Paige Bueckers, Jalen Suggs and Chet Holmgren, just to name a few.

“I think we've just been a pretty big pioneer when it comes to the AAU circuit and all that stuff,” Schreiber said. “The growth that we’ve made, it's remarkable that a state like Minnesota -- we're not California, we're not Texas, we're not Florida, we're not New York -- but we can be right up there with those other states with the talent we’re putting out.

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“It's just kind of that final icing on the cake that now we're going to have a shot clock as well, which will pair us up really nicely with the college basketball game.”

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The BHS girls basketball team huddles for a timeout during a game on Dec. 3, 2021, against Sartell-St. Stephen at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The adjustment will affect not just gameplay, but also school budgets. School districts will have to purchase the new clocks and pay another worker to run them each game with funds from their own coffers.

“Logistically, I think there are some concerns, because there's not a lot of money anywhere right now for items such as (shot clocks),” said Bemidji activities director Troy Hendricks.

Despite this, Hendricks has confidence that BHS can work it out. They’ll have to if they want to be in compliance with the new rules, which will mandate the use of shot clocks in MSHSL competition.

“I have a couple of companies that I work with that have said that they will get me numbers as to what the costs are going to be,” Hendricks said. “I mean, everybody's going to be ordering these things. So they'll be able to give me a pretty solid number here shortly.”

Tom Critchley, the executive director of the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association, said Daktronics estimated the cost of installing one of its clocks at $3,700, a number that would be lower if a school already had a Daktronics scoreboard.

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Currently, teams can use shot clocks in regular season nonconference games and tournaments if they have the equipment and choose to use it. The new mandate only exists for the varsity level, though schools can use them at lower levels should both schools in any game agree to it.

Once the shot clocks are installed, they will change the X’s and O’s at the varsity level. Teams will have to devote time to strategizing what to do in late-clock situations and at the end of halves.

Schreiber thinks the shorter shot time will add excitement to the game as well, preventing it from trudging along when one team decides to hold the ball. The most infamous example came in the boys’ 2014 state semifinals between Hopkins and Shakopee, when Hopkins stalled with the ball for minutes at a time through regulation and four overtimes.

“I think it creates an up-tempo style of basketball, which is fun to watch,” Schreiber said. “It’s fun to play. And I really think it gives the advantage to the better basketball team.”

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The BHS girls basketball team huddles for a timeout during a game on Dec. 3, 2021, against Sartell-St. Stephen at the BHS Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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