NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA and USA Basketball are dipping their toe into youth sports, recommending guidelines they hope will help with development and enhanced experiences at a young age.
The recommendations include lowering the basket and prohibiting zone defense and 3-point shots at the youngest level of competition. They also call for the use of a 24-second shot clock at the high school level and a 30-second shot clock for ages 12-14 in their youth guidelines that were announced Tuesday.
“When these kids are getting into the sport at this young age, we want them to get in and have a good experience, have them succeed,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said, “and we think these rules and standards help them do that, help them develop as young people and overall improves the sport.”
The guidelines were developed over a two-year period by a working group that included former players and coaches, and representatives from high school, the NCAA and AAU basketball. They were divided into four segments: ages 7-8, ages 9-11, ages 12-14 and grades 9-12.
Most of the standards can’t be enforced, because the NBA and USA Basketball don’t operate leagues or tournaments at the early ages. But the hope is that recreation organizations will implement all or at least some of them, because the recommendations come from the highest level of the sport.
USA Basketball will use the rules in its youth tournaments, which currently start at age 12, and Tooley said the hope is that AAU events also will implement them. But a large part of the focus is on younger players, not yet at competitive tournament age, who struggle on a regulation-size court and may be giving up on the game before having the chance to get good at it.
They recommend 8-foot baskets for ages 7-8 and 9-feet for ages 9-11, along with balls that are smaller in circumference so they can be more easily controlled by younger players. The standards also call for equal playing time throughout the game at the youngest age, and through the first three quarters for 9-11.
And they say that neither age should be playing zone defense, which limits movement both offensively and defensively, or hoisting long shots that kids can’t reach in a natural shooting motion. If a gymnasium has a 3-point line, even a shot behind it is to be counted for 2 points.
Tooley knows that some guidelines could be difficult — shot clocks or baskets that lower to different heights can be expensive — but hopes leagues and tournaments will use whichever they can. The NBA and USA Basketball adopted world governing body FIBA’s rules for all high school-age recommendations.
Tooley said playing time can be a major concern. He said kids should play equally in the younger age groups.
“You can’t weed people out by the time they’re 8. They don’t have the skills,” Tooley said. “There’s a lot of people undeveloped so we want it to be fun and offer a chance for everybody.”