Category Archives: ShotTracker

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Sports Analytics in the Classroom: How One Computer Science Professor is Changing the Game

Check out the Stats & Analytics Hub for the latest insights and resources on basketball data technology.
By 2022, the sports analytics market is expected to skyrocket to $4 billion. While top international companies are fighting for industry supremacy, an assistant professor of computer science at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. is poised to make her own big impact on the data-charged future of sports.
Dr. Felesia Stukes differentiates herself from traditional computer scientists by putting storytelling at the center of her work. “That’s what makes data science so unique,” she says. “You can’t just throw numbers at your target audience. That’s statistics. You have to be able to tell a story with the data.” And she believes—correctly—that students across different majors at JCSU stand to benefit from having a data science skill set.
When Dr. Stukes attended the National Society of Blacks in Computing Conference in the summer of 2017, she discovered the perfect tech tool for making data science accessible to one and all: ShotTracker, a sensor-based system beloved by D1 college basketball programs that instantly delivers 70+ real-time stats and analytics to an easy-to-use-app. Featuring shot charts and zone maps, ShotTracker makes telling stories about data that enhance team performance and drive competition easy.
Dr. Stukes immediately recognized ShotTracker’s educational potential, envisioning the system as the cornerstone of a new data science minor at JCSU. Now, supported by a prestigious grant from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Stukes, along with seven hand-picked JCSU students, aka “The DATA Bulls,” are turning her pioneering vision into reality with a ShotTracker-powered pilot program designed to take computer science out of the classroom and into the real world.
“Math and science can cause anxiety and lead to avoidance for some students,” Dr. Stukes says. “A lot of the time, you’re in a computer lab environment in front of PCs, which makes things more intense.” ShotTracker’s on-the-go app changes that. The DATA Bulls started charging ahead the moment the sensors got installed in the rafters of JCSU’s basketball gym in September. “We consider it a partnership, because the teams will use ShotTracker during practice and we use the data to analyze their performance. The idea is to engage students traditionally not interested in data science or, on the flip side, athletics,” she said.
To re-enforce her program’s real-world aspirations, Dr. Stukes encourages the students to think of JCSU’s athletic department as the “client.” Beyond being responsible for ensuring that the system is working properly and that all the sensor-enabled balls are fully charged, the DATA Bulls will interact directly with players and coaches on JCSU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, using ShotTracker-powered stats and analytics to improve their on-court performance.
(Image courtesy of Johnson C. Smith University)
“The hands-on, real-world applications make a huge difference in our students’ understanding,” Dr. Stukes says. “Using visuals on the iPad, we can talk to the coaches and players, increasing interactions outside the classroom. They’re learning at a faster speed than if they were looking at a PC screen and attempting to understand the impact.”
One DATA Bull in particular is a senior computer science and information systems major named Amyr. He’s determined to make his mark on the sports analytics field, and this program is a “dream come true,” Dr. Stukes says. “He plays basketball in his spare time. He’s well-versed in fantasy leagues. And he’s doing a senior project based on NBA stats. This experience is going to make him an excellent job candidate when he graduates.”
The benefits of being a DATA Bull certainly aren’t lost on Amyr. “For a while, I struggled to figure out what I wanted to do after graduation,” he says. “When Dr. Stukes presented this program, it pointed me in the right direction. I’m super-excited about it. Learning about a new system like ShotTracker while collaborating with others should be a very fun experience and lead me to new opportunities in the future.”
As just one of more than a hundred recognized Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), JCSU represents a particularly important staging ground for Dr. Stukes’ innovative use of ShotTracker. The program is unique among HBCUs, and Stukes sees it eventually broadening to track information such as sleep data, exercise science, and health and human performance. Minorities are underrepresented in the computer science field, yet as Dr. Stukes points out, those with computing skills are among the highest paid. Her passion as an educator is helping close that gap. “There’s a lot of motivation behind this program,” she says, “especially with a diverse student population.”
Though she does not consider herself an athlete, Dr. Stukes is both the wife and the daughter of former college basketball players. Her now deceased father, she says, “would’ve been blown away by ShotTracker. He never would’ve left the gym.” Of the few remaining old-schoolers who dismiss analytics as a passing fad, Dr. Stukes says, “Those people sound like they’re coaching from their couch. For coaches who are actually interested in winning, ShotTracker is empowering. You’re still using your eye, still using your mind. But you can use this tool to add to your expertise.” Like father, like daughter.


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David Stern Talks Sports Betting, NBA Tech and His ShotTracker Investment

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Former NBA commissioner David Stern and ShotTracker co-founder Davyeon Ross joined Bram Weinstein on the SportTechie podcast to chat about ShotTracker’s growing integration into basketball, and how sports betting will impact the viewing experience for NBA fans. Stern is an investor in ShotTracker, whose sensor-based technology and data analytics will be available to team personnel on the bench at the NCAA’s Hall of Fame Classic on Nov. 19 and 20.
“Coaches are gonna get shot charts for both teams in real-time,” Ross said. “They’ll get optimal lineups and advanced analytics that give them information about how they’re performing in transition versus half-court, whether its [comparing] ball reverses versus paint touches, or ‘What’s my points-per-possession and field goal percentage if I have less than three passes?’”
David Stern: Why sports betting providers are interested in real-time data analytics companies
“With respect to the advent of sports betting, if the potential bettor has faster information than the enterprise that’s taking the bet, that really tilts the odds dramatically to the bettor. So this is an important reason why many of the companies that are engaged in transmitting gambling information are interested in what ShotTracker can do.”
Davyeon Ross: How ShotTracker selects which data metrics to provide
“We’ve worked with a lot of exceptional coaches from numerous coaches from some of the top-25 universities at the Division-I level. We asked them ‘What are the five things that are important to you?’ These coaches know what they want so we started constructing our algorithms to be able to provide the information to them.”
David Stern: Why his opinion on sports betting has since changed since leaving the role of NBA commissioner
“I testified in favor of PASPA [the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act] in 1991 as commissioner. It was a serious item of faith that sports leagues should not support betting on their games. I was consistent on that for a lot of different reasons but daily fantasy turned me around on that. I thought we had to keep sports fans—our home team fans—happy if the home team won and the last thing we wanted was have [anyone] upset if the home team won but didn’t cover [the spread]. That’s a quaint, old perception of mine that had to undergo some changes because of daily fantasy.”
David Stern: How technology will evolve the sports broadcast viewing experience for fans
“We are on the cusp—it may take three or four years—of a next generation of information that is going to go with the broadcast of the game. There’s going to be social media involved while watching the game. The ability to bring up statistics at any time you might request. The ability to watch the game with avatars who are representing friends of yours by WiFi. There’s going to be the ability to have somebody else broadcast the game if you’re not favoring the play-by-play announcers. If you keep going, you’re going to come to the conclusion ‘Why not odds and the ability to make a bet?’”
Hear the full interview with Stern and Ross, including their thoughts on how ShotTracker and the Golden State Warriors’ style of play is changing the way youth basketball players approach the game, on this episode of the SportTechie Podcast with Bram Weinstein.


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Measuring Grit: How Utah Valley University Uses ShotTracker to Make Practice Perfect

Check out the Stats & Analytics Hub for the latest insights and resources on basketball data technology.
Ask Utah Valley University’s men’s basketball coach Mark Pope how his Wolverines jumped, in just one year, from 291st all the way up to 29th ranked D1 program in three-point shooting percentage and he will talk your ear off about Grit: The Passion and Power of Perseverance.
“It’s a bestselling book by Angela Duckworth where she uses her research on ‘deliberate practice’ to take the ’10,000 hour rule’ to the next level,” Pope says, referring to the commonly accepted number of hours required to attain expertise in any given field. “My guys never go to the gym just to get some shots up. Deliberate practice means using metrics and measurements to help you evaluate your progress towards a goal.”
For Pope, incorporating metrics used to be a lot easier said than done. In his first two seasons as coach of UVU, Pope and his staff manually statted their practices — a tedious, time-consuming process that too many coaches are still needlessly cursing about under their breath. But not Pope. Not anymore. Not since he discovered a revolutionary tech tool that makes statting your practice automatic: ShotTracker, the sensor-based system that instantly delivers 70+ stats and analytics in an easy-to-use app.
Among the fast-growing number of college programs installing ShotTracker in their practice gyms and arenas — including top-ranked Kansas — UVU was an early adopter.
“We are on the cutting edge of sports technology,” Pope says. “ShotTracker gives our players an opportunity to chart every single shot that they take and every single mile that they run in their individual and team workouts. As a team, it gives our guys a sense of what they are accomplishing and what they need to do to get better. The analytics it produces show us where each player is most effective and in what areas we need to improve. It’s a great tool for player development. It’s making us better.”
During the 2017-18 campaign — their first full season of ShotTracker-powered practices — the Wolverines improved much more than just their long-range marksmanship. Pope paced his team to a 23-11 record, good for 2nd place in the Western Athletic Conference and a school record for wins. (The previous year, UVU went 17-17, finishing 5th.) Pope, who was justly rewarded with a six-year contract extension, proved that having access to detailed, real-time data that goes beyond the box score, including shot charts, zone maps and more, translates into victories.
And this is precisely the result that ShotTracker was designed to produce.  “ShotTracker provides coaches with actionable insights allowing them to make the right decisions to impact the game,” says co-founder Davyeon Ross. “We’re committed to helping coaches and players get the most out of each practice and game so they’ll be in the best position to succeed.”
ShotTracker is proud to help Coach Pope and the Utah Valley University Wolverines continue to find success on the court. If you’d like to talk more about what ShotTracker can do for your team, visit https://shottracker.com/demo.


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