Pregame Dunk Funk

The backboards are rattling as you leave the locker room and enter the confines of the court. Now what?

As your pulse quickens in the immediate aftermath of the pregame dunks during a high school contest, you have to resist the urge to let your mind race like a student staring at an exam question and exclaiming, ‘I didn’t know that was going to be on the test!!’

Move the rule changes and Points of Emphasis for this season that were uppermost in your mind to one side of your brain and focus on how the dunking deed will impact Team A.

Keep in mind that scholastic basketball rules are like a bird in your hand. If you hold them too loose, you have no control and the game can easily fly away from you. If you hold them too tightly, you choke the life out of the game.

Knowing the rules will give you the confidence to calmly and confidently apply them to a situation where there is no doubt, in your opinion, that a rule infraction occurred.

If there is some debate that the rule violation occurred – in this scenario, pregame dunking – then you pass on enforcing the rule (i.e. you did not see the player dunk; or in your determination it was not a dunk, just an aggressive layup.)

The impulse to avoid a scenario that starts the game on a sour note is understandable; but officials don’t cause these scenarios, we clean them up.

To that end, under NFHS rules…

the official would charge players A-1 and A-2 each with a technical foul

… and award Team B FOUR free throws (TWO for each infraction) and possession to start the game with a throw-in at the division line.

Here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • The alternating possession arrow would be turned toward Team A’s basket when the ball is “at the disposal of Team B” for the ensuing throw-in to start the game.
  • The technical fouls charged to A-1 and A-2 will count towards their personal foul total (of 5) and technical foul total (of 2) before disqualification.
  • Additionally these technical fouls count towards A’s team foul total putting Team B two fouls closer to the bonus situation in the first half.
  • Each technical foul for the pregame dunking are recorded as indirect technical fouls to the head coach of Team A, and in states that use the coaching box, the first indirect technical would result in the loss of the coaching box privilege.
  • Furthermore, any total of direct plus indirect technical fouls totaling three, would result in the disqualification of the head coach.

Yes, three pregame dunks would mean the head coach’s night is over before it began, and his/her replacement would not have the use of the coaching box.

Clearly, the pregame dunk is a scenario you want to avoid, if you can (i.e. warn a player if their layup looked close to being a dunk), but do not shirk your responsibility to enforce a rule that is broken.

We have provided the knowledge to hold the rule on pregame dunking in your hand with the perfect grip to administer it correctly, as well as judiciously.

Rule Reference
NFHS 4-19-5e; 10-4-3 (Casebook 6-4-1)

About the Author

13 thoughts on “Pregame Dunk Funk

  1. Godfather, over the years, your personality and enthusiasm for the game of basketball has made it easy for me to admire you. How professional you are handling delicate items on and off the basketball court , inspires many of us. You are an outstanding man, mentor and behind the scenes power broker.

    1. Hi Derick, thanks for your positive comments…High praise indeed coming from a man as respected as yourself…

      We enjoy bringing a ‘reality-based’ approach to managing the challenges of officiating a basketball game.

      We are in a true sense, ‘game managers,’ as no one has made the effort to play, coach or watch a particular game that we are officiating…If we can take pride in letting our skills allow the players and the game to shine, every game we are a part of will be significantly better.

      Take care and travel safe!

  2. I am happy to say that in 25 years of officiating I have never had to deal with that situation. As I am walking onto the court, I make sure that all of the players are aware that my partner and I have arrived . I immediately look for players with jewelry and other articles that they should not be wearing during warm-ups, and rectify the situation right away so that everyone knows I am monitoring everything that is going on. If you look the other way when a pregame dunk is being executed, you open yourself to all kinds of problems later on especially with the opposing coach who is going to question you as to why you make certain calls and ignore others.

    1. Good suggestion, Tony.

      You need to let the students know, ‘the teacher has entered the classroom.’

      And make eye contact with any players whose layup is too aggressive and gesture for them to dial it back.

      And officials who choose to ‘leave their post’ during player warm ups to stretch themselves, do so at their own peril. One day, you just might get caught in a bad situation.

  3. Excellent analysis of the situation Tim! Very clear and direct. Love the analogy of the bird in hand. Keep on doing what you do so well. We all benefit from your efforts.

    1. Pat, thank you for your kind words…No one has ever died of an overdose of appreciation! 🙂

      Travel safe and have a great season!

  4. Tim, thanks for the reminding me about a similar experience, my problem was the “opposing” coaching staff saw it and made sure I knew “they saw it”. The violating player admitted it to his coach at the 5 minute pre-game meet at half-court, but when he was notified that he would lose the coaching box, it became my fault!
    Not a happy camper for the duration of that game.

  5. You’re welcome, John…If you work in this great game long enough, you will get your turn in the ‘dunk tank,’ so to speak…

    But I believe there is a calmness and confidence that comes from knowing exactly how to administer a ruling…the stress comes from not being sure of what to do…

    If there is no debate on the foul or violation, and the coach’s only complaint is the punishment, you heart rate should slow down considerably because you understand making the rules is above your pay grade and you’re there simply to enforce them.

    Good luck!

  6. Crew doing a doubleheader, girls then boys. After the third period ends one of the uniformed boys players leaps up and grasps the rim.
    We had jurisdiction with the girls game but do we lust warn the player or do we start the second game with a technical?

    1. Since it’s not his game, he is not considered bench personnel. This would be no different than anyone in the stands doing the same thing. It might warrant a conversation with him personally or asking game management to do it. However, no penalty can be enforced.

  7. I have been officiating for 30 years and have asked many officials this question about pregame dunking and have received many opinions. I am glad to finally have an answer we can all clearly use and not go with an opinion. It is much appreciated and you can be sure it will be passed on to others. Thanks Tim

  8. Hey lots of great articles but what about when there is inconsistency in interpretation or preference of NHF vs. Local or state enforcement/rules. I feel personal bias are at fault, it is in my opinion that the NHF need to be more vocal in or limit fundamental rule enforcement. I say this because we have more and more teams traveling outside the boundries of their live in states and this takes away from the game because of the enforcement of things such as uniforms, head bands, and not play calling.

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