Denver Nuggets third year point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay has been doing some pretty impressive things this summer. He returned to his former home, the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the first time in 16 years last month and was able to participate in a few charitable events before heading to Johannesburg, South Africa to participate in the 2nd ever NBA Africa game. Along the way he worked with some of the continent’s best U18 basketball prospects, build houses, and participated in other community service events.
Last week, Muiday participated in another incredible, under-the-radar event in Albany, New York. The Gifted Athletes Skills Academy took place last week and featured the typical summer basketball camp staples like shooting and dribbling instructions but for this camp there was a rather interesting twist: this camp also taught some math and basketball “analytics” as well.
John Drazan is one of the main minds behind the camp. I first met Drazan at the Sloan Sports and Analytics conference in Boston last February. Sloan has become a huge event over the years and a meeting of the minds for sports analytics and cutting edge technologies and ideas. Drazan was the winner of this year’s research paper competition and a visionary on ways to integrate math and basketball at the youth level.
His paper began with a simple idea: how can we merge STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education with sports analytics to interest kids in math and sciences? What Drazan came up with was a program of basketball “analytics” that STEM students can learn to calculate by hand, evaluate their own performance, and then visualize their performance through things like shot charts. For the paper, the team created their program, implemented their ideas in a camp in Albany last summer, and presented their method, implementation, and results of their program and camp. You can read more about his paper and his research here.
For Mudiay’s camp this summer, each camper went through physical testing throughout the week, similar to the NBA rookie combine. They measured upper body strength, explosiveness, agility, speed and quickness. Players also logged their shooting splits during shooting drills. From there, they were taught the methods used to analyze their performance data. Drazan and his team also created an app that can create visuals such as heat maps to visualize their performance.
This is such a great idea. I’ve long felt that the backlash to “analytics” is rooted in a sort of anti-intellectualism. There are certainly many fans, writers, and talking heads that use basketball analytics poorly but there remains an underlying desire to think that math and science are these limited fields that aren’t actually important or useful in sports. By merging basic analytics with sports, this idea seems like a huge step toward breaking that way of thinking and toward inspiring a generation of students to pursue an education in STEM fields.
Kudos to Drazan and the rest of the camp organizers and kudos to Mudiay for participating in the event and bringing such a high profile to the event. Perhaps next summer we can get Gold Crown Foundation and Bill Hanzlik involved to host a similar camp right here in Denver.