Like a fast-growing number of college basketball coaches, Texas Christian University’s Jamie Dixon uses analytics to inform his every strategic decision, from designing plays to setting lineups to choosing which drills to focus on in practice. “Coach is a huge analytics guy,” says TCU Director of Basketball Operations Thomas Montigel, “and he wants that information right away.”
TCU used to employ five student managers whose sole job was to manually tally stats at practices and games, then break it all down into analytics and type it all up into documents. It was a tedious and time-consuming process. Not even a team of five could keep up with the action on the court fast enough to provide all the stats that Coach Dixon wants.
Enter ShotTracker, the easy-to-use sensor-based tech that TCU installed in its practice gym last summer. Sensors in the rafters map the court in 3D while tracking the locations of multiple sensor-enabled balls and the small sensors each player wears on their sneakers. All that information results in 70+ real-time stats that instantly display on the app.
“We’re using ShotTracker to keep our players accountable, to establish a baseline for progress and to set attainable goals,” Montigel says. Here, the TCU DOBO offers an inside look at the positive impact of live analytics.
TCU Basketball in the era of B.S. (Before ShotTracker)
“We just weren't efficient at all. There were four student managers sitting at a table, heads down, tallying up stats, and a senior manager following the action, basically live-directing. So, ‘#10 just took a shot. Missed two. #1 got the rebound. Pass to #10.’ Then they’d spend hours in the office breaking it down into analytics and organizing it into documents. With ShotTracker, everything in our practice gym is now statted automatically. You can just pull it up on the app. We’ve got the student managers rebounding shots now. You can never have enough rebounders.”
With access to live analytics, the players began competing with each like never before
“Every kid wants to see their individual stats. And these kids are tech-savvy, always on their phones. They want instant gratification. So the PLAYER app delivers three things they really care about. Our guys are super-competitive. They’re looking at their teammates’ stats, saying stuff in the locker room like, ‘You had six turnovers, but I only had one.’ Then they're hitting the gym at night, going back to their buddies in the dorms and saying, ‘Hey, I just made 50 out of a hundred.’ It’s a constant competition, which is obviously great for the team.”
Players who made excuses now face facts. Stats don’t lie — and neither do the sensors.
“ShotTracker is extremely accurate. At first, I was kind of skeptical, so I had the student managers try everything they could to trick the system, to confuse it. They were throwing the ball off the wall, toe-ing the 3-point line, and the system picked it all up. We’ve got this kid on our team, one of the best shooters in the Big 12, but almost every single time he’d shoot a 3-pointer, his toe would be on the line. You could add 100 points throughout the season for all the long 2’s he’d take. Didn’t matter how many times we’d tell him — your toe was on the line — he wouldn’t believe us. Now we have proof! ‘You really only made ten 3’s, because the other 25 you made were long 2’s.’ When kids can see it for themselves, nine times out of ten they’re going to use it as motivation.”
With ShotTracker, there’s no such thing as an off-season.
“We use ShotTracker during every practice, but it’s not like we’ve figured out how to utilize all the features. Honestly, that would be impossible. There are just so many ways to take advantage of it. This summer, we’ve been challenging our guys to hit the gym on their own and lace up a sensor, which lets us track their progress when the coaches aren’t there. We’re going to see who can get 1,000 shots up. If you do it, you get a shirt — ‘The 1,000-Shot Club.’ We’re using ShotTracker to keep our players accountable, to establish a baseline for progress, to set attainable goals. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”
TCU isn’t the only Big 12 basketball team using ShotTracker. Conference powerhouse Kansas was also an early adopter. Oklahoma and Baylor are in on the action too. And just a couple weeks ago, Kansas State had ShotTracker installed in its practice gym. Team by team, the real-time stats revolution is gaining steam and transforming the way we play the game today. There are still some old heads out there who dismiss the importance of analytics, but they’re liable to get left behind. Considering the ease of use and widely affordable price point of new tech like ShotTracker, it seems pretty clear that the train has already left the station.