Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Colleges Look for in a Basketball Player: Eyes, Ears, Numbers

There's an unattributed quote making the rounds on some of the sports forums. I never publish stuff that has no point of origin but this is so useful and insightful that I'm going to publish it anyway.

It has to do with the kind of player perennial winner San Antonio looks for but it addresses the issue of what a good college coach is looking for as well. This is a rare, concise set of observations about players that address issues that are not racial, conditioning, nor purchased in pay to play leagues.

It also talks about the vision of coaching staff assistants to think outside the box - take the cult of personality, parents, popularity, expectation, and so on out of the evaluation - then what does the player bring to the game?

I'm treating the following quote as fair-use internet myth:
"Kevin Pritchard brought in a saying, I assume it was from San Antonio: 'Eyes, ears, and numbers.'

'Eyes' means what you see. Does a player have a feel for the game? What's his basketball IQ? Does he play winning basketball? What are his skills: shooter, ball handler, athleticism, size, length? You gather visual impressions of what you like and don't.

'Ears' has to do with culture, which is obviously a huge factor for our team. How does a guy fit? We do research on players so we know coming in whether they'll mesh easily or not. This entails talking in person with coaches, calling assistants and strength coaches, building the book on your man. Are they hard workers? Are they dependable? What are they like in the locker room? Do their teammates like them? Do they show leadership skills? And that's just the on-court stuff. We also want to know if they will be good in the community ... what they do in their off time and that kind of thing.

'Numbers' are simply stats. For college we look at things like scoring, field goals, rebounds per minute, assist-to-turnover ratio. We also do quality of opponent analysis. We want to know if a guy has been playing against the best competition and how he fared. We try to look at back-to-back game and one-day-rest patterns to gauge how a guy will hold up physically.

For the NBA we have a simulation guy who uses his own stats analysis. You weigh stats and strengths, digging deeper than the normal boxscore. For instance, which is better: a 90% free throw shooter who goes to the line 3 times a game or a 70% guy who goes 8 times? The boxscore highlights the 90% guy, but is he really more valuable?

Our simulation guy doesn't watch many games. He just goes by the numbers. It gives us a different perspective. It lets you watch players differently."

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