IN basketball it's easy to determine the winner – the team that scores the most points wins.
But explaining why a team wins with supporting statistics is more difficult.
Davyeon Ross, a Trinidadian living in Kansas, is cracking this problem by intersecting his two passions, basketball and mathematics, in the revolutionary sensor-based system he co-founded, ShotTracker.
“Right now it is a manual process. In games everybody is writing down everything, but ShotTracker automates the capture of statistics and data in sports.”
ShotTracker uses a sensor-based technology that helps basketball players and their coaches to track and improve the performance of individual players and teams.
The system captures over 70 unique statistics from data collected from sensors placed on players and on the basketballs they use from a number of popular brands including Spalding, Adidas and Nike.
“We also put sensors in the arena or the court and we are able to track the location that the player is playing ball within two to four centimetres, which is really accurate. We have these algorithms that can actually take the location of the player and ball and make that into stats, whether it is field goal attempts, assists or steals.”
According to ShotTracker’s website, basketball enthusiasts also receive the ultimate fan experience through their fan app and augmented reality that allows fans to interact with live statistics during games.
“We provide advanced analytics – points for possession, the impact of paint touches, the impact of the number of passes and all these different types of analytics for basketball. And we are starting to go outside of basketball into other sports like football and volleyball.”
ShotTracker has secured US$40 million from big-time investors like legendary former professional basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson and former commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) David Stern, who is credited with exponentially widening the NBA’s global audience (Stern died in 2020).
“Magic actually flew out to Kansas City and spent the day with us to learn more about the business and to see the tech in action.
“It’s kind of crazy, because I grew up watching basketball and to have him (Johnson) as a partner is really incredible. And David Stern –he is another legend. It’s been a real blessing to see those types of people get excited about what we’re doing.”
Ross had this advice for young, upcoming entrepreneurs, who are struggling to get investors to take their businesses to the next level: “You can’t score if you don’t shoot. Believe in your vision and be passionate about your project so people could feel that passion and could experience that passion.”
Proud to be a 'South man'
Ross, who grew up in St Margaret’s Village, Claxton Bay with his parents and three siblings, is a proud “South man” and doesn’t miss an opportunity to laud his alma mater St Benedict’s College, where he developed his passion for basketball and excelled in mathematics.
“I am a Benedict’s man, a South man. Benedict’s is the best school and growing up in South was a good experience. I grew up in church and we were a really close-knit family. We did something every Friday night together.
"Coming to the US, I have a strong appreciation for my life in Trinidad. My parents and my community made me into who I am. They are my backbone. If I look at everything in my life I attribute it to that upbringing.”
In spite of his very busy schedule, the 42-year-old husband and father of seven-year-old twins makes sure he spends time with his family.
“My kids are really important. I have a lock-off time so I could be with them. I try to find that work-life balance so I could spend time with my family.”
Ross left TT for the United States in 1996 at 17 to study at Benedictine College in Kansas after receiving a basketball scholarship.
“I started training for basketball nationally and I got the scholarship. I came to the US and played basketball for four years. Maths has always been my thing. I studied computer science, maths and business and after that I had some opportunities to play professionally overseas but I had a few job offers and ended up taking a job offer with Sprint.”
Ross has worked at a number of companies, which allowed him to travel the world heading enterprise software projects for major software players in the game like Blackberry.
He worked in Germany and Canada for a while ,but took a leap of faith and started his first company at 27 – a video syndication company called Digital Sports Ventures.
He eventually sold that company to the Digital Broadcasting Group in 2011, but it wasn’t long before Ross’s friend Bruce Ianni sowed the seed that led to the eventual birth of ShotTracker in 2013.
“One of my friends reached out to me asking how he could track stats for his kids who were shooting (hoops) in their backyard. We started working together and building ShotTracker – and here we are today.”
“It’s been a long, good journey but an emotional rollercoaster.”
On the college, TV sports roster
ShotTracker’s system is currently used by over 70 colleges across the US and Ross expects to triple that number by the end of this year.
He says major sport broadcast networks like ESPN and CBS Sports also use ShotTracker.
They’ve also worked with the NBA summer league.
Ross said although the company is primarily focused on the professional basketball spaces in the US, his team is having discussions to make ShotTracker’s services globally accessible.
“If you are going overseas you have to really have a strategy and approach to make it financially beneficial. So it will take some time for us to go overseas. I see the technology being utilised across multiple sports and multiple events.”
Ross said his company has endured a number of challenges, which only worsened last year in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This has been a tough road. Covid19 has been very disruptive to our business. In March we were starting to instal in about 30 to 40 schools until August and everything shut down so we literally could not get installed in any schools. By the grace of God we are still making it happen.”
Another challenge Ross pointed out was getting basketball manufacturers to co-operate and put ShotTracker’s sensors in their balls.
“When you are building a technology like we are building, you may have to rely on other major companies to partner with you. These people have their own agenda, roadmap and things they want to accomplish, and this takes work, time and their resources. So getting them on board was challenging. But we got them onboard. It took everybody, from David to Magic, and some other investors, to make that happen.”
Ross said one of his biggest challenges with TT is the lack of technological advancement.
“Trinidad is so behind from a technology perspective. I think it is really important that we stay ahead of the curve and start embracing technology across the board, especially if we want to compete on the global market. TT has some of the most talented people, so I think if we embrace technology then it could open up opportunities, not just in TT but across the Caribbean and across the world.”
Visit ShotTracker’s website at https://shottracker.com/ for more information.