How the Kentucky Wildcats Use Data to Position Themselves For Success
Matthew Mitchell has been the head coach for the women’s basketball program at Kentucky since 2007. He’s led his team to at least one NCAA tourney win in eight of those years, with a promising outlook for the 2018-2019 team, currently ranked 17th in the nation headed into the postseason.
To reach this point, Coach Mitchell established a culture of hard work and honest evaluation to get the most out of his players. The team has worked to forge strong relationships amongst the players and staff to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. This mindset extends to the team’s slogan this season, #poWEr.
A product of this culture is a disruptive, pressure defense which ranks in the top 15 in steals and top 40 in scoring defense in the nation. However, Coach Mitchell knows great programs have to find success on both ends of the court. During a coaches retreat this off-season the staff decided to commit 25% of their practices to shooting drills for the upcoming season.
But as every coach knows, shooting drills can be chaotic. Groups of players at four or five hoops each shooting the ball is impossible to accurately track by hand. Even with a manager at each goal, the staff frequently had to go back and review film to get more accurate statistics. This cumbersome process just wouldn’t work for Coach’s increased emphasis on shooting drills.
Then Kentucky’s staff was introduced to ShotTracker, the sensor-based system that instantly delivers 70+ stats and analytics in an easy-to-use app.
“ShotTracker has eliminated that chaos for the manager while giving players accountability in the shooting drills. Players know who is delivering towards our team goals for each practice and who isn’t,” says Daniel Boice, Video Coordinator at Kentucky.
Now entire practices are statted automatically. Every ball and every player are tracked with box scores, shot charts and advanced analytics available in real-time in the app. Kentucky’s culture of hard work and honest evaluation is bolstered with analysis that nobody can hide from. Coach Mitchell and the rest of his staff can use the real-time data to hold players accountable, encouraging and coaching them with the support of numbers throughout a practice.
When asked how Coach Mitchell sees ShotTracker impacting his team, he replied “I don’t know if there has been anything over the last 12 years at Kentucky that made more sense to me as far as something that can really help our players as individual shooters and help our program offensively get better. Our commitment to shooting more was made early in the off-season. It has helped us in so many games when we’ve been able to make shots that we needed to make.”
Each individual player knows that she needs to put in extra hours in the gym to contribute to the team goals. Putting on a player tag and logging extra shooting sessions is part of the #poWEr mindset that has gotten the Wildcats to where they are now. In addition to another 20 win season, Kentucky’s hard work has led them to be top 15 in the nation in 3-pt field goal shooting percentage. Knocking down tough shots when the team needs it is a staple of Kentucky Women’s Basketball this season, and having underlying data to help in that effort is crucial.
ShotTracker’s data provides accountability and insights that help Kentucky find success and the word is spreading to other programs. The Kentucky staff is often asked by visiting opponents to get a glimpse of the technology in use during a practice. Boice said, “When you have a good product, there’s a lot of curiosity about it throughout the league. Every school we’ve shown ShotTracker to has been through the roof about the possibilities it presents.” How could your program benefit from automatic real-time stat tracking?