Heads or tails?
That’s a question New Jersey high school basketball coaches and players will have to consider this winter.
To help protect basketball referees against the new coronavirus, all jump balls will probably be eliminated this upcoming season.
Instead, the visiting team will call a coin toss before the game. The winner of the toss will get the ball to start the game. The alternating possession arrow will determine possession on jump balls for the rest of the game, including the start of overtime.
“It’s just so the referee doesn’t touch the ball and then put their hand (on a whistle) in their mouth,” said Wildwood resident and New State Interscholastic Athletic Association state basketball rules interpreter Billy Martin.
The National Federation of State High School Association gave each state permission to modify some rules and mechanics to protect against the coronavirus this winter. Several states, including Kentucky, have eliminated jump balls.
“For a long time, they’ve been talking about getting rid of the jump ball,” Martin said. “First of all, very few officials can throw it up straight. It’s one of the last hold-ons from back in the (James) Naismith days.”
The goal is for referees not to touch the ball at all this winter. Players will shoot free throws or inbounds the basketball based on an officials signal. Martin noted that it is common in other sports, such as soccer, for players to put the ball in play without officials touching it.
The hope is that these added protections for referees will convince officials not to opt out of the season. The New Jersey basketball season is scheduled to begin Dec. 21. The regular season would end Feb. 3 and an abbreviated postseason would be held from Feb. 5-17.
“We’ve had so many officials have decided (in the fall) not to work for various reasons,” Martin said. “It’s going to be a problem in basketball because it’s such a condensed season.”
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