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Wednesday, October 31, 2012
The future of basketball practice is here

By Eamonn Brennan

Last month, I wrote a quick, tech-heavy post about Duke's decision to hand out loaded iPads to each of its men's basketball players. The Blue Devils would use the iPads for game film, scouting, playbooks, and the like. Neat, sure, but beyond whatever recruiting benefit comes from publicizing the fact that membership in your basketball team came with a complementary 64GB iPad, I didn't think the the Blue Devils could do anything with team iPads that they couldn't (already pretty effectively) do before. Which is a nice summation of the iPad itself, now that I think about it.

But Duke is still talking about its iPads, and I have to say, this latest announcement actually seems worthwhile, if not borderline revolutionary. In tandem with SportsBoard Basketball Scout, where current Duke manager Scott Lamson interned, Duke basketball managers will begin using iPads to tally live stats throughout the Blue Devils' practices. After practice, the program will push updates to the players' iPads, including a calculation for that day's Player Efficiency Rating -- word to John Hollinger. From the release:
“SportsBoard has been a nice addition to our program, ” Assistant head coach Steve Wojciechowski said in a press release. “Distributing PER reports to each player’s iPad at the end of practice provides immediate feedback, allowing them to identify their strengths and weaknesses from that practice and cumulatively for the season. The timeliness and efficiency of this feedback will be an excellent tool to help our guys grow and develop.”

Duke may not be the first program to use these sorts of tools, or the iPad as their mechanism for execution, but that's not really the point. The point is, this is how new technologies will make their way into basketball, and all sports, and your life and mine. One day in the very near future, players will be able to walk off the court, pick up their do-everything tablet, see live video played back to them as stats tally graphically in the corner of the screen. It's a combination of the athletic need for constant, rapid performance evaluation with the trend toward data-driven living. All of these things may have been possible before, but they've never been even remotely this easy to execute.

All of a sudden, downloading a PDF of a magazine every week doesn't seem so cool.