Sports Tech: ShotTracker

ShotTracker Klay Thompson

Ask any coach which specific talents they could use more of on their teams and getting pure shooters is always something in scarce supply. Even in the NBA, where players are far superior in their shooting touch, the number of pure shooters – guys who can be counted on to ‘almost never miss’ when left open – is surprisingly low. When we get down to the college, high school or grassroots level, the number of shooters plummets. There are more great athletes on basketball teams than great shooters; in many cases there are more players with size on high school or AAU teams than players who can scorch the nets. This is odd, because being a great athlete is partially based on good fortune (and being 6’11” is something no one can just make happen), while being a great shooter is something players can significantly improve on with enough work.

I can’t say I was any better as a young player – if you can beat most players off the dribble from the wing and finish over/around them, it’s hard to want to develop that deep shot. Usually, what happens is that young players don’t realize they actually won’t be able to slash their way against bigger/better teams until they actually play them – there’s nothing like being guarded by a guy who’s two inches taller than you and quicker than you to make you understand the importance of being able to keep them back on their heels more with a deep shooting touch.

Being a programmer I am always quick to look into sports tech – whether it’s data related (yes, I did spend too many hours over the holiday break researching the differences between the Massey Ratings, Wobus and KenPom…but I digress) or hardware, and the truth is, it’s much harder to find good hardware related sports technology. Too many of them fall into ‘gimmick’ territory.

Naturally, I wanted to take a look at ShotTracker, a nifty little package that is marketed as a shooter’s aid, combined with data tracking. It’s got the big name NBA endorsement from Klay Thompson, affectionately known as one-half of Golden State’s ‘Splash Brothers’ duo, but NBA affiliations aside, I wanted to talk with the company as well as delving into the product.

First, let’s talk about the basic package itself: in a nutshell, ShotTracker uses two components: a wrist sensor and a net sensor. The wrist sensor can either fit into a wristband (ShotTracker provides one just for this purpose) but it also is paired up with an app that allows for data collection…and that’s we leave the ‘gadget’ world and start moving over into an actual training tool.

So you’ve got the sensor on the net, and the sensor on your wrist, but things are about to get really clever here: ShotTracker then spends some time getting to know ‘your’ shot. This is important because the app needs to be able to track you, specifically, and many shooters have different releases and movements. Sure, it’s all the same basic idea, but having scouted hundreds of players over the years I can personally tell you watching players’ shooting motions is a big deal. Some guys have crazy quick releases and others cock the ball back to their ear. The ShotTracker sensors not only learn your shot, but they eliminate ‘non-shooting’ motions – dribbling, passing, even shot fakes. If your game is entirely based on taking charges, this app probably won’t help you, but it will let you know that you aren’t a shooter.

Once the app has trained itself to know your shot, then you’re ready to start putting in work for real.

You pair up with the mobile app – the ShotTracker app has two distinct data points which will make you a better shooter: first, it will track your shooting – not just misses and makes, but the location of the shot. Second, it will allow you to run through a specific shooting workout. Yes, even the shooting workout of a famous NBA player who won a title last year. It also tracks when you are working out, too. For you players who are getting up at 5 am to run through shooting drills, your coach could actually see that. It’s also good for players who want to stay committed to a regimen and compete with themselves.

Last summer, ShotTracker ran a ‘virtual camp’ with Klay Thompson, and participants were able to use the workouts he suggested, and follow the exact same shooting regimen he was putting in. They also organized a Klay Thompson pre-season challenge, where shooters were actively competing and posting their scores to see who could top the leaderboard. I love this idea; it immediately made me start thinking about if we could use something similar during our Basketball Elite summer circuit, especially since we are so active with players on social media. Maybe we’ll be able to come up with something. It would be cool to see if we could do something with this during the Triad All-Star game in March, or the NC Top 80, or our Southeast Summer Showcase.

There are some things that ShotTracker currently doesn’t handle: like in-game tracking. As of now, it’s specifically for individual workouts and used best for the type of workout that too many players ignore: shooting drills. I was thinking with a rebounding partner and the ShotTracker app, you could really put up some shots and never think about anything other than your next shot.

ShotTracker’s motto, or at least their unofficial motto is ‘you can’t improve what you don’t measure’. In speaking with the company I was able to get a good sense that even though ShotTracker is already something players should be checking out, they are looking to the future and I’m very interested in what they may be working on next.

We’ll be putting the ShotTracker in the lab in the next few months with our pro team (more on that later), so expect some follow up from me on how the app works in a pro training regimen.

Marcus Shockley is the creator, along with a band of talented (but possibly misguided) misfits, of, the Southeast Summer Showcase, NetCast Sports Network and has scouted and written about basketball for longer than any person should openly admit. He spends his days arguing with old men at local barber shops about who was a better enforcer between Bill Laimbeer and Charles Oakley. You can follow his rantings on sports, life and acceptable flavors of ice cream on Twitter @m_shockley

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