UMKC is first basketball program to implement ShotTracker TEAM

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 06: Udoka Azubuike
LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 06: Udoka Azubuike /

The UMKC men’s basketball program and ShotTracker, a Kansas City business which sells spatial tracking systems for basketball teams, have teamed up for mutual benefits.

Coming off a season which saw the UMKC Kangaroos nab the first-ever postseason victory in program history, UMKC is looking to build on that success. A newly-minted partnership with local basketball analytics tech company ShotTracker gives the Roos a solid chance at doing exactly that, along with making UMKC one of the first D1 men’s basketball to become a ShotTracker TEAM client.

ShotTracker TEAM utilizes sensors placed in strategic locations throughout UMKC’s practice and game gyms along with sensors placed inside the balls in use. Players will also wear sensors on their shoes. All the data is recorded and transmitted in real-time to users, who can then use it to develop a myriad of statistics.

The appeal of committing to using analytics on a broader scope wasn’t an easy sell to the program, however. UMKC head coach Kareem Richardson admits that he was hesitant.

"“Chancellor [Leo] Morton had a good working relationship with ShotTracker,” Richardson said. “He was probably more excited about it than any of us. He kept the ball rolling, wanting us to get with them. Analytics has taken over, I’ve been kind of stubborn about it, just worried about whether or not the ball was going into the rim or not.”"

That kind of resistance to change is something that Dayveon Ross, co-founder of ShotTracker, has seen many times. He is seeing a shift in that trend, however.

"“Coaches are more embracing of analytics than they may have been in the past,” Ross stated. “They know it’s critical to winning. However, the core hesitation comes from ensuring they have the resources it takes to make data and analytics work in their program. When coaches see the data ShotTracker TEAM provides automatically and in real-time, they’re excited to get going and it mitigates their concerns.”"

Richardson is now among the converts, and as Ross predicted, is excited about the potential for the system in his program.

"“I’m looking forward to getting guys into different kind of competitions,” Richardson commented. “With the data, now you can’t hide. We are going to track all the data as soon as those guys walk into the gym. We’ll be able to see what areas of the floor guys are more comfortable from, even in individual workouts. We’ll then be able to put guys in the best position possible based on that data.I’m really intrigued about what the data is going to tell us about penetrating and kicking out versus the ball never touching the paint. We like to play an up-tempo style and we want to see where our percentages are on shots under seven seconds shots into the shot clock. We want to make sure our style of play makes sense for us. The data will also help us with getting the best combinations of players on the court.”"

Richardson and his staff are working out exactly how they will use the data captured during games and practices, but he is confident that it will be a tremendous asset to his program in not only making game plans, but adjusting those plans in-game.

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"“A lot of the data will be of most use to us live in games,” Richardson explained. “We’re still trying to work out a solution with the NCAA. Right now we aren’t allowed to have iPads on the sidelines during games, but I believe that is going to change. From an offensive standpoint, we need to know who is playing well together and where we are being most successful in scoring the basketball.Even if there is no rule change, we will still have the data available to us at halftime. Utah Valley is the only other school in our conference that has bought into analytics at the same level that we have. It could be a huge advantage to us if we are able to use it to its potential.”"

As the Kangaroos get comfortable with the system, they intend to use it in many more ways than just improving the on-court product. Richardson thinks it can also be a valuable tool for recruiting.

"“As we get more comfortable with this, it’s definitely going to influence what type of player we recruit,” Richardson elaborated. “There’s no question that we are going to sell ourselves to recruits on our commitment to analytics.”"

Additionally, ShotTracker TEAM will add value for spectators at UMKC home games this winter. Fans can also track the action in real-time on their devices, as thousands of fans recently did at the NAIA D1 men’s basketball national championship tournament in Kansas City this past February.

"“From a marketing standpoint, we are going to sell to fans that they can track players,” Richardson added. “Obviously it won’t be to the same extent that we do as coaches, but it will be something that we will sell.”"

All those factors make the local partnership with ShotTracker a win for UMKC, but ShotTracker is just as excited about the relationship with the Kangaroos.

"“We’re thrilled that UMKC is an early adopter of ShotTracker TEAM,” Ross said. “UMKC is a great program with strong leadership and vision. We’re also grateful for the hometown support.”“The beauty of having these guys here locally is that we can work with them to develop the product,” said Richardson. “We are both trying to promote Kansas City, and promote both brands long-term.”"

Continued improvement on the court by the Kangaroos, partially due to the implementation of ShotTracker TEAM, will benefit all parties involved. That will serve as great advertising for ShotTracker and the fan experience will be augmented as well. ShotTracker TEAM may eventually be used by many D1 basketball programs, but UMKC will always be where it all started.