Coaches want consistency with rule revision

Prep basketball players will have a new twist in hand-checking to learn before the new season this winter.

The rule prohibiting excessive contact has been expanded to include all ball-handlers on the court, including post players.

Post defenders have long used a forearm in the back to create space and keep the offensive player from leaning back into them.

This revision in Rule 10-6-12 and a new signal for officials were recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Basketball Rules Committee at its May meeting in Indianapolis. Both changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors. The N.C. High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) posted a link with all of the rule changes for next year on its website.

Last year, the rules committee added Article 12 to Rule 10-6 in an effort to eliminate excessive contact on ball-handlers and dribblers outside of the lane area. Beginning next season, excessive contact on any ball-handler will be a violation of the rules.

After reaching out to a few area coaches about the recent revision for next year, the resounding message was “consistency.”

“I hope whatever they decide, we are consistent across the board,” Mount Airy basketball coach Levi Goins said. “And it’s not a guessing game every single night.”

“As long as the game is called consistently, the kids will start to figure out how the game is being called,” North Surry basketball coach Kevin King said. “When the kids can’t figure out what’s a foul and not a foul, that’s when the kids start struggling.”

“If they do this revision, they are going to have to stick with it,” East Surry coach Jason Anderson said. “That includes the state playoffs. You get guys from different areas and different associations. There’s just a lack of consistency statewide.”

The new language in the revision states that “a player becomes a ball-handler when he/she receives the ball. This would include a player in a post position.”

The acts that constitute a foul when committed against a ball-handler are a) placing two hands on the player, b) placing an extended arm bar on the player, c) placing and keeping a hand on the player and d) contacting the player more than once with the same hand or alternating hands.

“The current rule covers the ball-handler/dribbler situations but ignores the action that goes on in the post area with the hands, arm bars, etc.,” said Theresia Wynns, NFHS director of sports and officials. “The additional language will clarify that the illegal acts should be ruled for every position on the floor.”

Prior to this season, the NCHSAA said it wanted to crack down on hand-checking. Early in the season, the officials did just that.

“The first couple of games I thought we would not survive. I thought everyone was going to foul out,” Mount Airy coach Levi Goins said. “Then it definitely lightened up as time went on.”

Coach King’s Greyhounds saw both ends of the spectrum; from a regular-season game against Carver that featured 59 fouls called and 76 free-throw attempts, to a physical third-round playoff game at Lexington where North attempted just four foul shots.

“The Carver game, we were both called for an inordinate number of fouls. We had four starters foul out,” King said. “At Lexington, we shoot four free throws, and they pressed us the whole game.”

Coach Ken Eiswald of Surry Central attended the Lexington game.

“Strength is supposed to be a factor in football, but when you allow so much hand-checking, it comes down to who is the stronger team,” Eiswald said. “I thought Lexington played very physical. … It’s tough going down against an extremely aggressive team when the officials are not taking that away … that can change the whole complexion of the game.”

The new revision should not only favor the offense, but greatly benefit post players.

Eiswald said the game of basketball overall has gotten more physical over the last decade. As a result, inside play has become more about trying to go through people rather than utilizing footwork and angles in the low post, Eiswald noted.

“It always seems to gravitate back to what it’s always been,” Eiswald said. “Any attempt to clean up the defense is something we have to always continue to do. It’s just a matter of whether or not they are going to call it.”

Whether or not officials put their foot down on excessive contact for the duration of the season will remain to be seen. After enforcement of the hand-checking rule appeared to fizzle out late in the year, coaches aren’t holding their breath.

“The start of last season, [hand-checking] was a little over-enforced,” King said. “By the middle of the season, you didn’t really notice there were any changes to way game was being played. Once you got into playoffs, it’s almost like they went back to the old system.

“I watched our girls play Franklin in a first-round game. It was as physical a game I’ve seen the last few years. The Surry Central play-in game, there were bodies all over the floor. You would never know there was a new rule.”

Sometimes, it’s a Catch-22. Fans don’t want to sit through a 2-3 hour game where teams shoot a ton of free throws. At the same time, they don’t want to see their kids get mugged on the basketball court.

“You have to make contact to defend in the post,” Goins said. “In this league, where you’ve got 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10 guys, you’ve got to be able to hold your position…

“It’s tough to see where the sweet spot is. You don’t want 1980s Bad Boys Detroit Pistons out there, but you also don’t want touch fouls.”