A North Dakota kid through and through, Buffalo girls' basketball coach Barb Metcalf spent most of her basketball life — as a player in high school, as a player at the University of Mary and as a coach at West Fargo High School — playing with a shot clock. To her, a shot clock was as intrinsic to the game as a hoop.
So she was taken aback the first time she experienced high school basketball in Minnesota when she took over at Park Center four years ago. With no shot clock, high school basketball felt positively Jurassic.
"It floored me," Metcalf said. "Why would you prepare kids to play style they wouldn't play in the future?"
The desire of Metcalf, and many other shot-clock supporters like her, will soon become reality.
Thursday, the Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors voted unanimously to implement a 35-second shot clock for boys' and girls' varsity basketball beginning in the 2023-24 season.
The shot clock will not be mandatory for junior varsity and other lower levels of high school play but will be allowed if both teams agree before their game.
"I'm pretty excited about the news," South St. Paul boys' coach Matthew McCollister said. "This is a step forward for our game. The MSHSL has done a good job in giving the players space to grow the game and take it to the next level."
Opposition to the shot clock took two paths: cost and implementation. Some small schools balked at the price of shot clocks while others expressed concerns about finding qualified staff to run the clocks.
In speaking before the board of directors, Tom Critchley, executive director of the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association, said the cost of shot clocks to schools that need them was estimated, according to industry figures, at about $3,700.
"That's not that much," he said. "We can find a way. We always do."
Metcalf said those costs could likely be covered by booster clubs. "Every school has booster clubs," she said. "If North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming can have shot clocks with those small schools, no reason Minnesota can't."
While administrators fretted about specifics, support for shot clocks continued to grow. MSHSL board President Tom Jerome of Roseau cited a large percentage of schools in favor of the measure. "It's about 75 percent support in schools and that figure has stayed consistent," he said before the voice vote that followed.
The number was even larger among coaches. Critchley cited a report done for the MNBCA that said that 82.7% of coaches were in favor.
"It makes for a crisper game," McCollister said. "It makes for more strategy and better defense. You don't have to convince kids to play it for 45, 55 seconds, a minute. It's just a 35-second window."
Metcalf was thrilled when she heard the news.
"It makes for a cleaner game, a more fun game," she said. "It's better for fans and it's equitable."