HS basketball will look very different in 2020: here are the new rules and recommendations

“Join us for tip-off time at … wait a sec, make that, join us for the coin-toss at 7 pm.”

Coin toss?


It’ll take some getting used to for 2020, but high school basketball in the era of COVID-19 won’t include an opening tip off.

Instead, there will be a coin toss.

It’s part of myriad rules changes by the National Federation of State High School Associations – also known as NFHS – whose regulations the NJSIAA follows. They are aimed at protecting officials, many of whom are older and may be at greater risk for contracting COVID-19, and having more serious health complications.

Jack Baum, Skyland Conference Assignor of Officials – who also assigns referees for the state tournament and Tournament of Champions – was involved in helping the NJSIAA outline the changes for referees, coaches and student-athletes.

Click below to listen to Jack Baum give a thorough explanation on the NFHS changes, and how they will affect high school basketball in New Jersey this season:

Specifically, rule modification 6-2-2 – “Elimination of the Jump Ball Procedure” – stipulates that the jump ball to start a game will be eliminated, and that “Choice of first possession of the ball [goes] to the team winning a coin toss, called by the visiting team.”

From there, standard rules apply regarding the alternating possession arrow. So, if Team A wins the toss and elects to start with the ball, the arrow would go to Team B once the throw-in takes place, much like the typical held ball situation.

Overtime periods would begin with the team that has possession based on the arrow inbounding the ball.

Click here for the complete NJSIAA document regarding COVID-19 related rule and procedure changes for 2021 high school basketball.

The other major change is that officials are “not required to touch (or handle) the ball prior to a throw-in or free throw,” according to a modification of rule 2.7.2.

Inotherwords, when a foul occurs, instead of the ball being handed to the official by whatever player has it, the players on the team that was fouled would retrieve the ball, and give it directly to to the player who is awarded foul shots, or the player chosen to inbound the ball.

Typically, the ball is “at the disposal” of the player when they get it from the referee. But, in this case – either at the foul line or on an inbound – the player may have the ball, but the official will present the “stop clock” signal – their hand extended with an open palm – followed by “one short blast of the whistle.” This would signal play can begin, and the official would begin the appropriate count: five seconds for either a free-throw or inbound. Officials also may use verbal cues.

Of note is the fact that it is “not required,” that officials touch the ball during the game, but they would be permitted to if they wanted to. Both Baum and Tony Maselli – NJSIAA Assistant Director in charge of officials – confirmed to Central Jersey Sports Radio that this is the case; it’s up to the discretion of the officials.

The situation is similar for an out-of-bounds play or a time out. If the ball goes out of bounds off Team A, then Team B should retrieve the ball and prepare for an inbound play. The same goes for the inbounding the ball at the start of a quarter; the team responsible for inbounding should retrieve the ball and place it at the spot for the inbound.

Similarly, for time outs, if Team A has the ball, and calls time out, Team A should place the ball at the spot to inbound, then return to its bench area.

Other changes include:

  • Only one player has to report to the “X” at the scorer’s table for a substitution
  • Benches may be located on opposite sidelines, and in those cases should be diagonally across from each other.
  • Teams across the court from the scorer’s table would also have a substitution “X” on their side of the floor, and game officials would be required to visually scan for subs before resuming play.
  • Referees can verbally and visually confirm rosters and starters with the scorekeeper, but “will not touch books, pens/pencils, or be required to sign the scorer’s book.”
  • Pre-game conferences with teams will be limited to one official, the head coaches, and one captain from each team, during which the coin toss will be held. There will be no handshakes before or after.
  • Coaches and students on the bench or sidelines must wear face coverings. There are exceptions for health reasons, extreme heat, or “high intensity aerobic or anaerobic activities,” which would include those playing in the game and referees.
  • Neck gaiters are allowed, but not recommended for indoors. Colors need not necessarily match uniform colors, according to Baum.

Click below for a full presentation on the rules changes and rule interpretations shared with NJSIAA officials for the 2021 basketball season:


  1. Great job everyone. To the families know that your children are playing so take all Precaution at home necessary to protect your family. Hand washing keeping uniform/ shoe in a central location as soon as possible. Just a few things we all can do

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