SASKATOON – Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball coach Lisa Thomaidis is constantly searching for ways to stay ahead of the competition, but that doesn’t necessarily mean spending extra time on the practice court. This season, for the first time, the Huskies are incorporating advanced statistical analysis into their preparation, looking beyond the box score to make their team even better.
“Basketball is a game of decisions and for us a lot of it is about whether those decisions being made correctly, and how can we help with the decision-making process with our players,” Thomaidis explained.
To collect the necessary data, Thomaidis enlisted the help of Connor Jay, who has been given the title of Huskies performance analyst.
“As opposed to just the points (for a player) or where they’re shooting three-pointers, we’re looking at how they’re getting their shots,” Jay said. “What’s their percentage when they’re open, what’s their percentage when a defender’s on them. When they’re at the rim, whether (they’re shooting) off one foot or two feet, how they’re converting it.”
There are many uses for advanced analytics. One of the Huskies’ primary goals is to use the information to help them become more efficient on the court, and it seems to be working.
Case in point: fifth-year forward Dalyce Emmerson’s shooting percentage of 64.7, the best mark in the country by more than three percentage points. The mark is nearly eight points higher than Emmerson’s career high, and she credits advanced analytics for helping her make the most of her opportunities on the floor.
“One of the things (Jay) charts is off one foot or two feet and for us that’s made a huge difference,” she said. “I know sometimes we get in there and we (shoot) off one foot and we’re off-balance and our shots aren’t as accurate, but if we can get in there and get balanced off two feet then those shots are so much more accurate.”
When you add the new stats to the Huskies’ unorthodox practice of scrimmaging against a male scout team, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that’s better prepared for a long playoff run.
“If we know where we’re getting the ball and where we’re being the most productive then that’s where we want to get it in games, too,” said Emmerson. “The fact we’re tracking that in practice and we can try to transfer that into games has helped a lot.”
“Information is power, so the more that they’re equipped with an understanding of ‘why’ behind the things that we’re trying to teach them I think that helps them think the game a bit better and understand the game a bit better,” said Thomaidis. “It’s been a very positive step forward for us.”
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