Ask any basketball coach at any level, and they’ll tell you how important taking a charge can be to a game. Sheridan College head coach Matt Hammer gets on his guys on a daily basis for not stepping over and taking a charge. For a defender to have that in his arsenal can become crucial in a tight battle or a late game situation.
A big play, yes, but a hustle play? Not so fast.
Something needs to be done about the charge rule in basketball.
Let me start by saying this: I don’t begrudge any coach that teaches charges or any player that takes them. I took them when I played, and my coach ran drills to practice taking them.
It’s a rule, a fairly straight-forward rule, implemented because it comes up at least once in every single basketball game, usually more.
According to an official press release by the NCAA in 2012 regarding the matter, a charge happens when,“before the offensive player (with the ball) becomes airborne, the defender must have two feet on the floor, be facing the opponent and be stationary to draw a charge.”
Pretty simple, right? Beat the ball-handler to the spot, plant both feet and take a blow to the chest like the classic video of the guy taking a cannonball to the midsection. Let out a grunt for added effect.
But the charge isn’t good defense, the charge isn’t easy to call and the charge needs to go away.
The biggest problem with the charge is officiating it. With the pace of today’s game, especially at the collegiate and professional level, it’s a play that happens in a fraction of a second. We’re asking a referee, who is already watching 15 other things on the floor, to determine if a defender’s feet were moving or not, he didn’t move into the contact and he was there before the offensive player jumped. And he has to do it all in the blink of an eye.
It’s pretty much a 50-50 call. Which is why when a ref blows his whistle to call either a charge or block, everyone in the gym waits with baited breath. Nobody knows what the call will be. It usually ends in the ref showboating, marching 15 steps to half court before making a big deal out of the call to draw as much attention to himself as possible.
Then, you go and throw in the half circle under the basket, and it throws another variable into the equation. It’s a crapshoot.
It’s always the slow, unathletic guys that take charges, too. It’s a bailout. Hey, I’m not quick enough to guard Yogi Ferrell, so I’ll just undercut him and hope I don’t get dunked on. Don’t punish Ferrell for being a better basketball player.
I also hate the charge call on a pass. When the offensive guy makes a pass and a charge is called, the defender did nothing to stop a basket. He overplayed his help side and let his man backdoor cut for an easy basket.
The NCAA and NBA have worked to fix it, somewhat. College added the charge circle in 2011, and both leagues have made the circle smaller since then.
But I’m not sure that’s enough. Getting rid of the charge completely might not be an option. They could add a fourth official to games, but that might cluster things up. I don’t think adding more video review is a good idea, either.
They could emphasize more the rule of verticality, giving more power to the defender as long as he is straight up.
The best solution might be to simply call less of them. If it’s too hard to tell between a block and a charge, call neither. Let the teams play on.
This flawed rule needs to be fixed. That’s just my idea. Free of charge.
Mike Pruden is the Sheridan Press sports editor.