EPLAY CEO shares his personal story about the creation of EPLAY and the challenges of being a 29-year old sports entrepreneur.
Before analytics entered sports, coaches had to evaluate players based on some basic statistical reporting and, of course, the eyeball test.
If you’re reading this and have at any point in your life been a basketball coach, then you’ll agree that it’s a near impossibility to track and focus on everything in real time.
That’s why this new approach to data analytics is revolutionizing basketball and is spreading through the world of competitive sports in many different forms.
Coaches can essentially become the biggest beneficiary of analytics. From crafting game plans to analyzing opponent’ strengths and weaknesses, the information provided by analytics is invaluable. Especially when it allows you to provide your players with objective data that allows them to focus on improving specific skill sets, ultimately maximizing their value.
Brandon Dean, current Head of Player Development and Lead Director of combine Events for EPLAY Basketball, shares the journey that brought him close to this new industry.
From a successful top level high School playing career to being a Skill Development Coach for NBA, WNBA and European Players, Brandon is best known for his work during the pre-draft process where he was worked with 38 players who have been drafted or have signed an NBA contract.
We sat down with the newest member of the EPLAY family to discuss what brought him from the basketball court and onto the EPLAY team.
AF: “What brought you close to EPLAY and Analytics and why do you believe in it”?
BD: “From the first moment I heard what it was, EPLAY had me. As soon as I talked to Ryan and the others I was 100% behind what they were doing.
As a trainer I could immediately see the benefit for the coaches.
In the NBA, while going through the pre-draft workout process, you never really know what to believe.
EPLAY showed me the gapper shouldn’t be a lottery pick.
I am a firm believer in production. Production for my team.
I believe that If you’re not helping your team, you’re hurting them.
The main thing I was sold on was their analytics are going strictly off of official boxscores. Those numbers don’t lie!
But the most unique and important thing about EPLAY is the E-SCORE!”
- So let’s talk about the E-SCORE for just a moment. In short, the ESCORE is an impact rating that takes into account multiple factors – such as team stats, individual stats, pace of play, your competition and even the value of the teammates surrounding you.
BD (cont.) : “The crazy thing now is that you can use the E-SCORE to track a workout just like you can a game!
This brings the world of analytics to a completely different level!
Players can finally see what really works for them. They don’t have to keep spending money on $200 workouts to train with somebody who isn’t going to help them.
You can make sure that you’re working out and focusing on the right things, but most importantly you find ways to translate data from your workouts into the games on the court.
You know, at the end of the day. You can take 10 dribbles to get a mid-range pull up or you can just shoot a mid-range pull up off of 1 dribble. If you miss the shot it doesn’t matter if you took 1 or 10 dribbles. You still missed the shot.
That’s where I see EPLAY Analytics.
This person is good at this but he can be great at that. And the numbers will tell you that.
Now analytics and utilizing data to improve your game makes sense”.
AF: “As a coach – why do you think Analytics are so important for your team and how would you apply them”?
BD: “For me – it’s important to get the kids competing day in and day out.
By tracking the data everyday you can check and see where you are on the leader board. It will make them work harder or makes them realize it’s not for them.
It’s a harsh reality but that’s where the industry is.
You can’t just be anybody and be a professional basketball player!
It takes a lot!
When the numbers and analytics can back up your claims on the court, it’s a reality check for everybody!
Even at the NBA level – teams are making decisions on who they will be picking in the draft based off of potential.
The numbers are right there for you”!
AF: “If you had a tool like EPLAY during your most important playing days, do you believe it would’ve provided you with more exposure”?
BD: “For sure! When I was playing in New Jersey there wasn’t really any exposure at all. Not a lot of coaches were coming in there to watch my games.
When I moved to Florida, it was nowhere near the amount of exposure that I thought I was going to be getting.
I was a 4 year varsity player who led my team in scoring and assists, but still there wasn’t many scouts that came to see me.
With EPLAY I could have played my game and leave a mark with my numbers. I might have had a few more folks in the stands for sure.
I would have had that exposure and had a lot more coaches coming to watch me play if I had EPLAY back then.
Honestly, I can see that being the same story for almost anybody”.
It’s no shock to anyone keeping up with the next generation of basketball talent that the name Cade Cunningham is at the top of everyone’s list. The 5-Star recruit from Montverde Academy has been on a tear this season and being top three in his recruiting class is by no means a mistake. As he prepares to take his talents to Stillwater this upcoming fall, people are still trying to figure out, as with every big recruit, is this kid really that dude? As Jay-Z put it, “Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don’t”! So, let’s take a look at the numbers.
Cunningham, a 6-7, 215 lb. guard has the size and skills to put up big numbers and his play supports that. During his six-game stretch at the Nike Peach Jam in Augusta, Georgia, Cunningham put up an impressive stat line logging around 30 minutes per game and averaging over 20 points per game while adding 7 rebounds and 6 assists. He was efficient in his scoring, converting over 70% of his shots while helping to lead his team to the Peach Jam crown. When we talk about efficiency, that requires a deeper dive into the stats and the team at EPLAY provides that. When we look at Cade’s performance, he earned a ESCORE of 168, which speaks to Cade’s talent being above the general pool of competitors. Using 100 as the baseline for the average player, anything that rises about the 150 mark, EPLAY considers that an above average performance. We consider all facets of the game and how things stack up for and against the competition. Considering his production on both ends of the court, Cade has shown his ability to generate instant offense but there was still room to grow on the defensive end. His turnover ratio, while good, could still use work with him being the primary ballhandler for the teams that he plays for.
Fast forward to November and the Dallas Thanksgiving Hoopfest where we see an improved Cunningham, which some wouldn’t believe was possible because he’s already a household name. Even though his body of work during that showcase was only two games, we saw improvement in areas that were concerning. Cunningham and his Montverde team went up against the likes of Dallas Duncanville (currently ranked #17 in the nation) and he didn’t hold back. Even though he averaged a somewhat modest 20 minutes per game (less than his 30 mpg average from over the summer), he averaged around 13 points per game with 6 rebounds and 6 assists. We do see a dip from his summer numbers but there is a turnaround for the positive. We saw a big upswing with Cade on the defensive end, averaging double the number of steals (1.0 during Peach Jam, 2.5 during Dallas Hoopfest) and improving his average with blocks. Another gem was his proficiency as a scorer, coming in converting a very robust 87% of his field goals. When we say Cunningham is a walking bucket, his play during the showcase puts this on full display. We see Cade’s ESCORE almost double in value because of this, coming in at 242, which puts him in an entirely different stratosphere. We saw improvement in almost every statistical category and he even found time to cut down on his turnovers.
If he continues to progress as he continues to play top tier talent, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Cowboy faithful at Oklahoma State will be watching a top 5 pick for the 2021 NBA Draft.
Statistics have always been important.
Analytics, on the other hand, are becoming essential.
Data provided from analytics are necessary for everyone right now. Teams are actively making decisions based upon analytics.
Coaches use analytics to find specific keys to team success and to find the best players that fit into their system(s). But in order to grasp this principal, players need to know what data is most crucial to their success.
Statistics are vital in terms of career building for players. Consistently good statistics are a way to reveal whether or not a player can perform at a high level. Basketball players are essentially using statistical data to build their resumes, but most of the time that information doesn’t tell the entire story. In reality, it can be hard to watch a basketball game and focus on everything that is happening on the court. We miss things. Even the little nuances of the game that numbers might not reflect. You might think somebody has 5 rebounds when they only got 4, or whatever the case may be. The point is that we can miss things that happen on the court in real-time. But things that you might see on the court or on film are not always the right things to pay attention to.
Here comes EPLAY.
Our company provides sophisticated information that will help to tell the ENTIRE story of your basketball career.
We are talking to you right now!
Whether you’re trying to earn a scholarship, or sign a contract with a professional team, or you’re trying to get a better deal from your existing team, at some point along the way you might’ve been told that you weren’t good enough, were too small or too slow. At some point we’ve all been told that we haven’t earned that contract, that scholarship or that opportunity. But why?
EPLAY Analytics is here to tell your story in a way that allows the truth to reside in the numbers. Yes, there’s truth in numbers.
Data and numbers are the first thing that should be looked at before seeing the way a player performs on the basketball court. At EPLAY, our sophisticated competition algorithm provides you with the knowledge of where your game ranks among the best. We allow you to know your level of basketball skills and what level you should be competing at. We can quite literally project your game to the next level!
EPLAY gives you the ability to understand the weakest parts of your game, the areas of your game that need the most improvement. Whether you’re the type of player who focuses entirely too much on scoring the basketball and doesn’t do enough on the defensive end of the floor, EPLAY can identify those things. More importantly, EPLAY is able to understand your potential impact on any given day!
EPLAY can create an overall profile for every player that includes a picture, verified box scores and stats, videos of your games and an E-SCORE. Our players are recognized through our EPLAY platform, giving them social media exposure, collegiate exposure, NBA exposure, national and international exposure.
What makes EPLAY stand apart from the rest is our system of verification! We collect and verify valid data through our base of certified statisticians utilizing our scoring system, while incorporating player identity verification elements.
EPLAY is the future of basketball; right now!
Erick Strickland – EPLAY’s Chief Operating Officer and former NBA player for the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks tells you what made him turn to the power of analytics in his post NBA career and why YOU should choose EPLAY!
Create your future and a career path with us!
How do we quantify our emotions as sports fans, I once wondered. We certainly don’t always use fact and reasoning when it comes to the way we support our teams. What I do know is that both our optimism and pessimism is (almost) always dictated by our emotions. Yet we continue to torture ourselves because, well, sports are awesome.
Most of us have been fans of a team or multiple teams for the majority of our lives. We all have different reasons for why we chose those teams as well. Be it genetics, academics, or geographics we all have our reasons and that loyalty runs deep. Sports are just another thing to wrap ourselves up in, and we’ve done a pretty good job of obliging. It’s the middle of winter. The football season is wrapping up, basketball and hockey are a little more than 25% of the way through their respective happenings, and we’re several months away from the baseball season. I’m a Dallas Cowboys and TCU Horned Frogs superfan, but their football seasons have been extremely disappointing to say the least. The Frogs failed to qualify for a bowl game and the Cowboys have decided to shamelessly underperform. Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars and Dallas Mavericks have captured the attention of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, including one team who has captured the attention of the nation. People expected the Dallas Cowboys to be good this season, thus many of us who are fans thought the same thing. The Dallas Stars had high expectations heading into the 2019-2020 season and after a rough start, have since been one of the NHL’s best teams. Then there’s the Dallas Mavericks. A team in the midst of a rebuild led by a 20 year old generational talent entering his second NBA season, Luka Doncic. Acquired in a January blockbuster, after almost a two year layoff from a serious knee injury, Kristaps Porzingis joined the Mavs as the complimentary piece alongside Luka. With Porzingis’ level of play being a pretty large unknown, expectations for the 2019-2020 Dallas Mavericks were pretty modest. Many predicted a much improved club and a potential Western Conference playoff qualifier. But very few, if any predicted the Dallas Mavericks would be as good as they have been 24 games into the season. Sure, there are still 58 games remaining in the season, but if we’ve learned anything about the Dallas Mavericks thus far, we’ve learned that they’re very much for real.
I must say that there’s a little bit of shame in my not being able to see this coming. After all, I work for a basketball analytics company and had all of the answers at my fingertips. For those of you who don’t know, I work for EPLAY, Inc. as the Product Integration Director. For context, allow me to explain a little bit about who we are and what we’re about. EPLAY is basketball’s unified ecosystem for verified statistics, analytics, global ratings, and digital content for EVERYONE. This is done by harnessing the power of the scorer’s table, collecting valid data through our base of certified statisticians utilizing our proprietary system, incorporating player identity verification elements. From there, EPLAY’s skill assessing algorithm (which weights statistical performances against competition level) and in-depth analytics are generated within our system. In short, I work for a company that holds the key to solving the emotional crises we all face when choosing to be optimistic or pessimistic in regards to our favorite teams. Again, the football season is nearing its’ end while basketball and hockey are just getting fired up. Emotionally, the best time to be a sports fan is right before the season starts and our hearts are automatically filled with joy, hope, and optimism. Because technically, before the season starts, everyone is a contender. However, reality typically registers pretty quickly for those of us who should’ve known better. Sure, there’s always the “anything can happen” theory, and sometimes anything does happen. But for most of us, most of the time, our teams never meet our expectations. “Nobody could’ve seen this coming” is quickly becoming the most ignorant phrase in sports. Simply put, the numbers tell us a different story. The numbers don’t lie. Nobody saw this coming… EPLAY saw this coming. Hear me out.
After a Sunday night loss to the Sacramento Kings on the second night of a back-to-back, the Dallas Mavericks were sitting at 16-7 and in third position in the Western Conference. Quite certainly exceeding expectations. Dan Dickey, EPLAY’s Chief Quantitative Officer, and creator of hoopsnerd.com is the biggest reason why I believe the numbers now more than ever. The Dallas Mavericks were 16-7 after 23 games and NOBODY saw it coming. We did. Stay with me. Dickey is the creator of EPLAY’s analytical models and is quite simply a hoops nerd. So let’s just say that EPLAY had a projected 2020 season for everyone on the Mavericks roster, taken from a data set of 499 players. In order to make these projections, EPLAY uses 2 years of weighted NBA regular season & playoff data, as well as 2018 college ratings & NBA conversions if the player was a rookie in the 2018-19 season. However, this particular model is void of the 2019 draft class as well as NBA G-League, Summer League, preseason, or international data. Players that logged over 600 weighted minutes “qualified” for EPLAY’s 499 player list. In short, the Dallas Mavericks entire roster “qualified”, so it was simple to see what our projections would have been at this exact point of the season, based on actual season minutes. In other words, if someone had told us before the season, when we created this projected data set, the exact minutes distribution of the Dallas Mavericks through December 10, 2019, this is exactly how our ratings would have predicted the team E-Score. Here’s a quick explanation of our E-Score:
ESCORE: An overall rating of a player’s impact when on the court, adjusted for strength of schedule, pace of play, quality of team, et al. The ESCORE is based off of 100. Above 100 is above league average, below 100 is below league average. Replacement level players have a ESCORE of 80 or worse.
ESCORE Rank %: Where the player ranks in terms of their ESCORE compared to all others in that data set. 100% is top, 50% average, 0% worst. Sometimes listed as “Percentile” after a statistical skillset – the player will be listed between 0 & 100% for that skill set compared to their peers.
In order to generate an overall team ESCORE, you take the average of each individual player ESCORE from that particular team. The data visualization below shows us the 2020 PROJECTED ESCORE well before the season ever started. In our current actual player ESCORE’s, Luka Doncic is stronger than predicted and Kristaps Porzingis is weaker, for example. However, with a cumulated team ESCORE of 106.8, the Mavericks are projected to win 52-55 games this season. Based on the numbers (and even the eyeballs) the Dallas Mavericks are a very strong basketball team. To break this down just a little bit further, after 23 games, if we had known these minutes, we would have predicted the Mavs would be 16-7 or 15-8. Sure, with those minutes and some real bad luck they could’ve been at worst 14-9. With those minutes and some good luck, the Mavs could’ve been 17-6. But the Mavericks were 16-7 after 23 games and NOBODY saw it coming. The truth is, we at EPLAY did see this coming. This is a very simple test of our projections and we’re barely scratching the surface. There’s always truth in numbers. When nobody sees it coming, the numbers always do.
It took me months to answer this question.
Identifying as an athlete is pretty much all I have ever known.
When people ask me if I’m still playing, I’m having a hard time saying no.
At an age where kids were messing around with their mates, playing with dolls or their video games, I was already playing basketball.
I was 5 when I had my first game so it’s not difficult to see why – after all – being an athlete was all I have ever known.
Ever since I was young I learned how to optimize and prioritize time and energy. That’s why I never understood my classmates complaining about homework.
I had a strict routine that allows me to complete my homework and go straight to the gym without losing any time!
Through this journey I learned the meaning of dedication, focus, commitment to excellence, time management, and communication. I learned how to be successful!
As elite athletes we train to do one thing and one thing only. We train to get better! Our daily routine is based on training and recovery. Eat – Sleep – and breathe our sport.
My days were scheduled. Practice in the morning. Practice in the afternoon. I couldn’t be late! I was going for months without a change in my weekly schedule.
I would complain so much about it, but now, it’s almost the thing I miss the most.
I was so looking forward to having some “free” time without making plans or having someone tell me what to do. But ultimately what I realized was that being an athlete built a mindset and now it’s unnerving and frustrating for me when other people I deal with don’t have the same mindset I have.
But here we are. I guess there’s a point in every athlete’s life where they are kind of “forced out” whether it is due to an injury, poor performance, or a loss of motivation.
To be honest I don’t know what really took me to the other side of the road, I just found an opportunity I couldn’t let go.
So as it happens, we’ve all found ourselves trying to develop other areas of our expertise. Or perhaps we develop new skill sets. So while other people are spending time experimenting with stuff in order to find themselves, we already know who we are and what we do. It’s a privilege enjoyed by a few.
Sometimes we are spoiled and we don’t really need to worry about a lot of things.
And here I am now in the grown up world. Being an athlete doesn’t really teach you how the other side of the world works.
So be careful my fellow athletes! The real world is way different from what we are used to.
After doing something you love for so long, something that you’ve committed yourself entirely to, it’s difficult to start thinking about what comes next.
We are busy living in the moment, we don’t really want to spend time on boring stuff like preparing a resume or learning how to handle job interviews. Why would we waste our time doing that when practices suck up all of our energy. But that’s all we’ve ever known and now that mindset we’ve developed as athletes has to evolve.
Leaving a career in elite sport is terrifying. At least it was for me.
It takes guts and it’s a huge life adjustment.
But one thing is for sure; even if we have spent the majority of our time running up and down a basketball court, sprinting around, pursuing our perfect athletic body without having time or wanting to jump into something that looked like real work experience, elite sports will for sure provide us with a bunch of skills our future employers will love. Leadership, setting goals, teamwork, performing under pressure, handling disappointment, handling failure, and the art of discipline.
With that in mind, I said yes to more opportunities outside of the basketball court in a bid to expand my network and find my direction for the future.
I might not be on the court anymore, but I’m still very much in the game.
Last summer I had this life changing opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Now, here I am in Dallas, Texas – literally on the other side of the world, far from everything I have ever known. Just a few months ago I was considering myself a pro basketball player, today I am an intern for EPLAY Analytics and I work on social media, marketing and the events side of the company. For those of you who don’t know, allow me to introduce you to EPLAY. We are currently a basketball centric sports technology company. EPLAY provides verified statistics, analytics, global ratings, and digital content for everyone! Who would’ve thought I’d have ever done this job!
As athletes we know how important the stats are. I mean our future contracts depend on our numbers but we never get deeply involved on how this thing really works. Sports organizations are going towards data analytics to improve their decision making, plan better and innovate faster. But athletes didn’t yet understand that analytics can tell us exactly how our attitude or our preparation can affect our game, for example. These numbers measure our performances.
At EPLAY we say that there’s #TruthInNumbers and I couldn’t fully understand the meaning of it until I saw how passionate these guys are when they simply watch a game and write down some numbers. Now, it’s a little more extensive than that, but in short, the game provides the numbers and EPLAY uses those numbers to essentially “predict” the game. EPLAY can essentially help players build their basketball resumes, with the E-SCORE being the defining factor. Here’s what makes me so excited about being a part of this rising company. Let me explain to you what it’s so special about EPLAY. Ok, so at the end of the day, all that really matters is how players help their teams win games. It’s just that simple. As a member of a team, what do you do and do well to contribute to the success of your team. The eyeballs always tell one side of the story, but efficient, winning basketball can sometimes look much different on paper. What sets EPLAY apart is our E-SCORE. The E-SCORE is an overall rating of a player’s impact when on the court. It is adjusted for strength of schedule, pace of play, quality of the team, et al. The E-SCORE is based off of 100. Above 100 is above league average, below 100 is below average. Replacement level player is 80 or worse. In short, the E-SCORE is a strong indicator of whether or not a player’s game can translate to the next level. For professional players, the E-SCORE is a true representation of a player’s overall ranking.
The bottom line is that I cannot wait to share this new chapter of my life with you all now that I’m a part of a brand new team! By the way, my new team can really help you improve your game and let your numbers speak for themselves. Come along for the ride!
EPLAY is changing the game!
So #BallOut and #GetEPLAY if you want to change yours!