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first_img Published on January 14, 2015 at 1:00 am Contact Jon: [email protected] | @jmettus Facebook Twitter Google+ After finishing 2014 with a 3-15 conference record, Simon Fraser University head coach James Blake had just two requests for his returning players: work on conditioning and improve 3-point shooting.Instead of dedicating his summer to recruiting, Blake watched hours of film, bought coaching DVDs and attended as many clinics as he could. He wanted a complete overhaul of Simon Fraser’s playing style. He wanted to make it faster. “You got to have quick guards,” Blake said. “You got to have guys that are sprinting lanes hard shoot the ball. You got to have some athleticism, so we kind of improved those attributes for our team.”
Simon Fraser runs a man-to-man full-court press the entire game and shoots within seven seconds of its possessions. Blake’s goals are to take at least 35 3s, force more than 25 turnovers and have 100 possessions per game. As a result, the Clan has gone from scoring 78 points per game last season to 119 this year — the most in Division II basketball. Twice Simon Fraser has put up 160 points or more. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBlake started working with Peter Chow-White, an associate professor in the School of Communication. He studies big data and has added another dimension to the team’s statistical postgame analysis. Though the team is currently on a four-game losing streak, its new system of advanced analytics have helped improve the team’s efficiency dramatically. “We’re free on offense and get to do what we want,” said senior guard Sango Niang, who leads the Clan with 22.9 points per game. “ I feel like other teams aren’t really prepared to play defense against a team that shoots quick shots and pressures them the whole way.”Last season, Simon Fraser’s post players struggled in a traditional high-low offense, shooting low-percentage shots and missing free throws when they got fouled. Blake decided to recruit five shooting-oriented players instead. In the spring, he started planning to institute a new, high-intensity playing style, similar to one he helped run as an assistant at California State Stanislaus.When the players came back to school and began preseason workouts, it was a shock.“It was like boot camp,” Blake said. “The first two to three weeks were really hard … We had a couple guys come in a little bit out of shape to the speed and velocity we were going to play at and they definitely were hurting … Guys were complaining about it.”Blake’s practices don’t involve much technique. Instead, it’s one hour and 45 minutes of five-on-five full-court press and other high-intensity drills, with only minute-long water breaks between drills.Though the team’s conditioning has gotten better, Blake’s challenge is having his players sustain their effort when the system isn’t working. In the past four losses, the press hasn’t worked as well, the transition buckets haven’t come and they’ve been forcing contested 3s.“They’re questioning what we’re doing,” Blake said. “They’re questioning the system and you know we got to get back and watch tape and get back to the basics again.”During games, an assistant coach is dedicated to tracking in what ways the team is scoring and the progress it’s making toward its statistical goals. Three minutes into the game, Blake already wants to know how many 3s his team has put up.But after the games, Blake gets more than just a box score. Every Tuesday, he meets with Chow-White to go over a game report the professor developed. Chow-White was interested in how advanced analytics could be applied to the basketball team. He looks at the efficiency of each possession, the basic statistical categories like rebounding and even individual players, so Blake can recognize areas he needs to make adjustments.“Where sometimes the box score can reveal things that are happening on the floor, it can smear what’s happening with a player,” Chow-White said. “It can hide as much as it shows in terms of the game.”The first game report took them two months to make. Regardless, the majority of the data they collect, they won’t use to evaluate the team until after the season.Utilizing both new systems has been a learning process for Simon Fraser, and Blake thinks his team has yet to fulfill its potential. “I’m still really optimistic how we can play even faster offensively and we can do a better job trapping and turning other teams over more,” Blake said. “… You can teach your kids how to play harder and faster.” Commentslast_img read more