What is “definite knowledge”?

Help me out, y’all.  I want to make sure I have this right.  (This stems from a disagreement at camp.)

Thirty seconds left in the half.  Team A inbounds the ball.  Trail official ticks off one-two-three seconds in the backcourt.  Team A then gets it into the frontcourt and throws the ball around for quite some time, tossing the ball everywhere.  Ball is knocked out of bounds.

Everyone looks up at the clock.  Still ten seconds.  Everyone in the gym knows that they were tossing the ball around for a lot longer than that.


Officials come together.  Trail says “I had three seconds of my ten-second count.  Did anyone have a closely-guarded count?”  One official says “I got to 2 seconds once.”  Other official:  “I had no counts.”  Officials then go and take 5 seconds off the clock even though everyone in the gym knows it was longer.  This would especially suck if there were, say, 6 seconds  left in the game instead of 30, but when I look at Casebook plays for rule 5:10, I don’t see any other way to handle it.


He says, if I understand him, that “definite knowledge” doesn’t have to be from a count.  Officials can just say “Well, we know it was longer than that, so let’s take 9 seconds off the clock.”

I know that’s not the right rule, but I’m looking for validation.

By the way, to throw a monkey wrench in all of this, what if there were “definite knowledge” in another way?  Say that, while the game clock didn’t start running, a 35-second shot clock mistakenly did start on the in-bound.  The officials look up and see that it reads 23.  Timer confirms that it started on the in-bound.  Can we call that “definite knowledge” and run 12 seconds off the clock?  What if one of the officials (rather than just the timer) saw the shot clock start on the in-bound?  It seems to me that this is “definite knowledge,” but I’m loath to go with it since I don’t have rulebook or casebook backing.

What do you have?


About Paul Hamann
I am a basketball referee in Washington State, working mostly high school games.

4 Responses to What is “definite knowledge”?

  1. MassRef says:

    There is some debate about the first two methods you describe. People disagree about whether you can use a count (or counts) to correct PART of a timing error. In other words, if you have a backcourt count of 4, but you know much more time than that has passed, can you take ONLY the 4 seconds off the clock? The argument is that, in this case, you don’t have definite knowledge of the time that should have elapsed. Since you can only make a correction if you have that definite knowledge, you can’t make any correction at all. You have definite knowledge that there WAS an error, but not exactly what the error was.

    Unfortunately, there is simply no definitive rule or case to address that disagreement.

    As for your friend’s suggestion, ignore it.

    If you have definite knowledge from another “official” source — the shot clock, or a secondary timing device at the table — by all means, use it.

    • Paul Hamann says:

      You’re right, Mass. None of the 5:10 caseplays show the “partial definite knowledge” that my example describes…which is a common enough event, I think. Might be worth a clarification. To the state I shall go…

  2. MassRef says:

    By the way, I like the way you notate rule as if they were bible verses. Let us read from the book of basketball, 5:10. Thus saith the committee. 🙂

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