Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Moneyball: EWU Men's Basketball Using Statistical App


Moneyball: EWU Men’s Basketball Using Statistical App

Taking a page straight out of Moneyball, a book, subsequently turned into a movie starring Brad Pitt, about Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane’s approach to statistical analysis of players in fielding a team, Eastern Washington University’s men’s basketball team and computer science department have teamed up to create an application for in-game tracking of squads of players.
As part of their senior capstone class in computer science, students under the direction of long-time professor Steven Simmons are working on real-world computer applications that will be used by the university and community at large. Not only are they learning how to code, debug and deliver a product to clients on a deadline, they’re meeting and working with area professionals – people who could become future employers in the very near future.
One team is creating an online game that teachers can use to deliver content and lessons to their students on historical events, while another is working on a sensitive-information scanner for the university’s Office of Information Technology department.
The group consisting of Jeff Butler (team leader), William Clark, Michael Holcomb, Kylie Martonik and Samwel Sitienei is working with the EWU men’s basketball team to develop an app that analyzes and quantifies game data in an effort to make better coaching decisions during crunch time. It’s an endeavor filled with multiple statistics across numerous combinations of players and within a dynamic time and space setting. This kind of information is available at the pro level, but isn’t something used by college teams.
“Typically you have an aggregate of statistics that shows how a team and individuals did over a half or an entire game,” said Sam Boynton, an EWU grad student and assistant coach on the men’s basketball team, who came up the idea and has worked with Simmons and his students on the app’s development. “What this does is try to quantify teamwork by measuring how different groups of five players, instead of individuals, play together in real time.”
The program, created as an application for use on Android and iOS platforms, is called EagleShots and has been in development since the end of last spring when Boynton brought the idea to Simmons with the blessings of head coach Jim Hayford – someone who strongly believes in data-driven decision-making. Using an iPad, Boynton inputs a plethora of information as it takes place. The backbone of the program is based on four theories outlined by Dean Oliver, a former Division III basketball player with a PhD in statistical applications, in his book Basketball on Paper:
  • Adjusted field goal percentage
  • Turnover rate
  • Free throw rate
  • Offensive rebound percentage
By inputting the different variables, including substitutions, especially over multiple games, the coaching staff can begin to see statistical patterns in different combinations of players on the court. The app outputs the top- and bottom-three squad combinations for those four categories, overall data and a season-output (over multiple games to date). That information can be accessed in real time, during a timeout, to determine the best combination of players to put on the court for any given scenario or against various opposing lineups.
“We couldn’t get this information without this app,” said Boynton, who has been testing the program and suggesting changes, just as real-world client would, during four games so far this season. “Even after just a few games we’ve been able to see some cool patterns and statistics emerge.”
The team of developers are in the debugging stage and will present to the professional advisory board on Feb. 21, which consists of Spokane-area community member that are involved in computer science field. During finals week, the team will give a final report to the entire computer science faculty, the clients and the professional advisory board.

Congratulations to Jeff Forbes on reaching the 1,000 Point Milestone!!!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Deadspin Article: Coach Ehlo on Playing Against Michael Jordan


FEB 16, 2013 2:00 PM 117,336 201 Share

“I’m Gonna Tell You What I’m Gonna Do”: What It Was Like To Guard Michael Jordan, According To Craig Ehlo

 Emma Carmichael

In honor of Michael Jordan's 50th birthday, we reached out to a man who, possibly more than anyone, understands the sneering greatness of Jordan in his prime: Craig Ehlo, the former NBA player (14 seasons with the Rockets, Cavaliers, Hawks, and SuperSonics) who was on the wrong side of "The Shot" in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference playoffs. Ehlo is now an assistant coach for the Eastern Washington University men's basketball team. We spoke to him by phone on Friday. What follows is his recollection of guarding Jordan, in his words.

I was lucky enough to play in the same division as the Bulls, so not only did we see them in the regular season, but also three or four times in the playoffs. So I saw him extra. I wouldn't say I was the unfortunate one, because still, like my dad always said, you'll be the best when you play the best. I was always thrilled to be in that position.
Usually, Ron Harper would start on him, then I would come in and go to him, and Ron would go to Scottie Pippen or something like that. I always felt very lucky that Coach Wilkens had that faith in me to guard him. Michael was very competitive when he got between the lines. He was never a bad talker or too arrogant, but it was just like what Jason [Williams] said: He'd tell you. He only did that to me one time, from what I remember. It was his 69-point game, and things were going so well for him that I guess he just went for it. We were running up the court side-by-side and he told me: "Listen man, I'm hitting everything, so I'm gonna tell you what I'm gonna do this time and see if you can stop it. You know you can't stop it. You know you can't stop this. You can't guard me.

"I'm gonna catch it on the left elbow, and then I'm gonna drive to the left to the baseline, and then I'm gonna pull up and shoot my fadeaway."

And sure enough ...

Like I said, he was never mean or bad about it. But on that one play I was like, OK, well, if he's gonna tell me what he's going to do, then I'm gonna take advantage of this. And I was right there with him when he did—but sure enough he banked it off the backboard. We were heading back down court, and he gave me that kind of shrugged-shoulder look that you'd always see and he's like: "I told you. I told you." And I just said, "Don't do that again." [Ed. note: We couldn't find this specific play, though there were several similar-seeming candidates to choose from. We've emailed Ehlo with a link to the video and will update if he gets back to us.]

I was right there, step for step with him, just like he said. It was amazing. I guarded it as well as I could. I had the hands up in his face to defend [the shot]. But that's just how good that guy was.

That game, obviously, we lost to him. I'd seen him several times by then. He was one of those guys who just had it all, instinctively. He was naturally gifted, you know? And sometimes I would look at him after a play and just say, "How did you do that?" And he'd sorta say: " I don't know. It just happens."

One time in the playoffs—I forget what year it was, but it was a first-round game. It was a pretty tough game and we were hanging with them. [Jordan] went in for a layup on the fast break, and I was sort of chasing him from behind, and the angle the official had was from behind us. And I contested his shot. The ref was a good two or three feet behind us, and I didn't foul him, but I got called for the foul. Michael made the shot, and the way he landed, he tweaked his knee a little bit. He just landed awkwardly. And then he lay there for about 10 minutes on the floor, and I thought, "Oh no, this guy's really hurt." A whole 10 minutes passed, and as we're waiting the entire arena—17,000 Chicago fans—started yelling, "Ehlo sucks! Ehlo sucks!" I said, I can't believe this. I didn't even foul him but the fans think that I hurt him. And after the game everyone was telling me: "You can't go out tonight. You better stay in your room because these people will hurt you."

The next day in the paper they had all these big pictures about the game and then down below it in the headlines—it was hilarious—was something like, "Jordan Absolves Ehlo From Injury." I remember, I didn't even know what "absolve" meant so I had to look it up. And when I looked it up I realized he was protecting me. That's the other side of Michael.

He was never cruel; he was the same way I was. I hope anyone who plays the game has that real passion for it. It's that idea that when you get between the lines, there's no rules. The game's a war. You do whatever you can to help your team win. But as soon as it was over, there was always a handshake and a "nice job." He never said anything bad about you in the paper or anything.

In Game 5 in 1989, we had scored right before that play, and we took a timeout. [Ed. note: Ehlo himself had scored, to put the Cavs up 100-99 with three seconds remaining. He finished the game with 24 points.] During the T.O. we were like, we know who's gonna get the ball. So we decided to try something we normally didn't do. Wilkens always believed that you always had someone on the ball out of bounds, and that play we took Larry Nance off the ball to double team [Jordan], to see if we could keep him from taking the shot.

I remember, Larry got in front of him at the top of the key and I was behind him. That made me relax a little bit, because we had the double team. [Jordan] got the ball and went right, and Larry, who's 6-11, went with him. And then Michael cut right back to his left and that crossed Larry up, and next thing you know I'm by myself with him right at the wing. The double team didn't work at all. I chased him out to the wing, and when I chased him out he was coming right back to the rim. I always had a good defensive stance, but he was so quick that I had to run with him, and when I did I crossed my feet. So when he stopped to pull up for the jumper, I was still running. I kept with him but because I was running, I sort of went by him—but I still had my hand in his face.

The way that game was going, I thought that shot was going in right away. I saw the flight of the ball, and I knew it was going in. But I was still praying that it would hit the rim and bounce out or something. It did bounce once but then it dropped in, and our season was over with. That's why I fell to the ground—because I just didn't want it to end in that situation. I always tell people, I grew up watching ABC's Wide World of Sports and they had that "agony of defeat" line, you know? And I felt like that guy. It was just agony that we got beat. And then of course I had to watch him jump up and down. And seeing Doug Collins run around only made it worse.

He was so swarmed, we didn't talk afterward. Jim Brown grabbed him for the interview right away.

[At Eastern Washington], we'll go to practice, and the guys will have been watching ESPN Classic the night before, or that Gatorade commercial will come on, and when that happens practice always starts with those guys saying, "Hey coach, you were on TV last night, I saw your play." Then it goes into a big whole, you know—I have to tell the story about how the game went. It's a good thing; it's not a bad thing. I think the kids get a real kick out of it.

I used to do broadcasting for Gonzaga basketball, and Jeremy Pargo—he's from Chicago—would always grab a white kid on the team—the 13th man or whatever—and he'd reenact the whole shot just to give me a hard time. And he was so happy that he could do it and reenact it and still my reaction was never, "Stop that crap." He knew that I could take it.

If you look back—and I've seen the lists over the years—Jordan will list his top 10 shots that he's taken, and that one was at the top for a very long time, because it was the one that kinda propelled the Bulls into that run of championships. You know, they didn't win that year. So he'd say, "That shot helped me get my team past this and this and this ..." Eventually, as he played more, others became his favorite, but that was always at the top. I've had Chicago radio stations call me up and say, like, "Hey, gosh, Craig, we thought you'd have hung yourself by now!" But I was able to play against the best guy who played the game, and I've just never taken it that far. It's just a game.

I couldn't tell you how many times I actually had to guard him one-on-one. Many, many times. I couldn't tell you. And in all that, the two or three that you do actually make a stop on him, you'll remember. I remember one. He kinda did the same move from that 69-point game. He was on the left wing and he drove to baseline and pulled up, and I got my hands up just high enough to make him take a tough shot. I remember that. And once in Chicago he came up on me, dribbling, and I realized he was ready to cross over. And I took a gamble on a hunch and knocked the ball away from him. Think of that: I have five or six of those compared to the 700 or 800 times that he did score on me. But I remember those few where I did something.

I love it when my players bring up that play ["The Shot"] and stuff like that because it makes you feel good. It makes you feel that they understand that there is a history to this game. It's like LeBron saying, I understand and recognize the guys that paved the road for me now and I understand what we have to do for next generation of kids. I hope I'm showing them, also, that the game of basketball—you can take it as seriously as you want to take it, but at the end of day I still have to go home, and I still have to see my kids and love my wife. There's a balance. You can play as hard as you want, but there is always your other side of life that you have to be responsible for. If you leave stuff like that on the floor, there's gonna be room to be happy when you get off.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Code Red!

They bring so much to our games! A great article to a special group. Watch our game against Southern Utah tomorrow (Saturday) at Reese Court at 2pm. Hope to see you all there!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Winford Exceling in Senior Season (Spokesman Article)


Eastern’s Winford exceling in senior season

Jim Allen
The Spokesman-Review
Eastern Washington guard Kevin Winford (23)
The Eastern Washington basketball team made it look easy Monday night, breaking Portland State’s press to finish off the game.
The operative word is “finish” – a mantra for the Eagles and especially for senior point guard Kevin Winford.
Together they’ll try to get to the finish line: a spot in the Big Sky Conference Tournament. The team is young, but the driver is goal-oriented and committed to finishing what he starts – no matter the obstacles.
“Kevin is a model for how we’re trying to build a program,” Eastern second-year head coach Jim Hayford said. “He does the the right thing and carries himself the right way.”
Winford has done that since his high school days in Alaska, where the winters are long, dark and cold. Exposure is a big problem – especially if you’re a high school basketball player who could use a little attention from college coaches in the Lower 48.
The word from coaches was always the same: He’s a good player but we’re not able to see him in person.
Winford says his father, Kevin Sr., tirelessly shipped DVDs to coaches while the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Winford shipped himself to summer tournaments on both coasts.
His mother, Gwendolyn, pushed Kevin to excel in the classroom.
“Of course, she wanted me to play, but she wanted us to take passion into our schoolwork,” he said.
Determined to play at the Division I level, Winford signed with former Eastern coach Kirk Earlywine, and got big minutes on the court his first two seasons while averaging nine points per game.
Winford has played in 106 career games to rank 11th in school history, and also ranks in the top 10 on several Eastern season and career lists for 3-point shooting. On career charts, his 129 makes and his 385 attempts both rank fifth.
Winford also owns school records for single game 3-pointers made (10) and attempted (23) when he finished with 39 points – fifth-best in school history – in his sophomore season against New Hope.
Along the way, he’s made the All-Big Sky academic team three years running, and will graduate this term with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He’s considering pursuing an MBA.
Winford’s playing time dropped last year when senior guard Cliff Colimon moved to the point to replace Glen Dean, but picked up this year when he competed with transfer Justin Crosgile.
But in the first of two surprises, Crosgile left the team and left the ball in Winford’s hands.
“If he steps up and owns that position he could finish strong,” Hayford said. “He’s a key for us making the Big Sky Tournament.”
A week later, Winford and teammate Jeffrey Forbes were injured in a vehicle accident in Grand Forks, N.D. Forbes was sidelined for one game with a knee injury, but Winford missed the entire weekend with a concussion.
“It was crazy, and it really let me down,” Winford said. “Before the accident, I felt like I was playing well.”
Winford picked up the pieces Monday against Portland State with 12 points, three assists and a big dose of senior leadership – no small contribution for a team dominated by underclassmen.
“I just communicate with them a lot,” Winford said. “I’ve been a freshman too. I tell them my stories and my experiences, and they listen to what I have to say.”
All the way to the finish line.