From a casual fan’s point of view from a distance, basketball games in Ghana are boring, slow and without much quality. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when results of games are recorded in various competitions right from the High School level to the Senior Level.
From the Sprite Ball Championship through to the Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges (UPAC) level to the Accra Basketball League, Tema Community Basketball League, GSP Basketball League and several leagues around the country, low scoring games are rife. On the contrary, games played in the West African country aren’t boring, they aren’t slow and they are full of quality play.
However, the low numbers put up in various contests paints a picture more in line with the former than the latter. The absence of proper playing surfaces remain is a major challenge as uneven courts scattered all over affects players foot placement and dribbling.
The nature of backboards and rims fall into this mix but as bad as these challenges are, they are fixable since high scoring games in recent months have proven so.
The 2019 Accra League Finals Series between Adenta Leopards and Braves of Customs had Braves beat Adenta 60-56 in Game 3 to lift the title. Prior to that result, Braves recorded an 82-69 win to force a Game 3.
This past weekend had Nungua Coldstore clinch its third Tema League title in four years by sweeping the Finals Series against Spintex Knights. In Game One, Coldstore clinched a 70-67 win and both sides improved in Game 2 as Nungua won via a 90-83 win.
All the aforementioned high scoring game detractors were present in all these games but the difference maker was the presence of a stop clock for both fixtures. Games in Ghana are played with running time that plays into the hands of teams with early leads in games.
There have been so many occasions where teams deliberately pass the ball with intent not to score but keep the ball away from the opposing team to kill time even with a slender lead. Other tactics that eat away time includes slow approaches to inbound the ball, shoot free throws and even referee signals to the bench.
The stop clock has been widely used in Ghana’s flagship league competition-the Accra League-in recent times and the results have been positive. The past season had more games ending in over 140 combined points than before and closely related to this was the introduction of the shot clock. Players were caught off guard on many occasions by the expiration of the shot clock and many a team failed to manage games with the shot clock in mind.
Moving forward this should be less frequent as teams get more familiar with it. The shot clock was introduced to speed the game and force teams to attempt more shots at the rim; the more the attempts, the higher the score gets. It also improves the pace of games as a shot attempt needs to be crafted in just 24 seconds which aids in quick thinking, dead eye shooting and overall improvement in quality.
In Tema, the fast budding league ended its fourth season without a shot clock but the finals series was played with one and the results were encouraging even if there was no shot clock. The mere use of the stop clock was enough for teams to stay longer on the court and attempt multiple shots particularly in the pulsating Game 2 between Coldstore and Knights.
The final seconds of the contest almost felt like double digit minutes and kept fans in suspense as free throws dominated late on with both teams in foul trouble. In a nonstop clock scenario, a couple of free throws would have sapped all minutes off the game and written off any kind of grand finish.
Ghana is still at the developmental stage in basketball largely due to inadequate or in some cases absence of logistics and infrastructure. As such, certain aspects of the standard way basketball is played wouldn’t readily apply here but there is the need to do so as quickly as possible.
Such elements help Ghana close the gap on advanced countries in the sport on the continent and those outside the continent. Recent results give a glimpse to how quality and attractive our game is sure to be once the right measures are put in place.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter