Mike Curtis and Natalie Kupperman standing in the middle of the weight room looking at the camera, smiling

'Dribbles and Data' Story Features Kinesiology Alumni

Kinesiology alumni Natalie Kupperman, now on the faculty at the UVA School of Data Science, and Mike Curtis, UVA men's basketball strength and conditioning coach, leverage data to build better basketball players.

Mike Mathers

This is an excerpt from a story published by UVA Today.

It was Jan. 7 and Tony Bennett was on the verge of becoming the winningest men’s basketball coach in University of Virginia history. A good game from fifth-year guard Kihei Clark could help make it happen.

So Natalie Kupperman and Mike Curtis focused on Clark’s stats. Not his points and rebounds, but instead a trove of digital data that measured Clark’s core as a basketball player, in much the same way a NASCAR team might pore over an engine analysis.

Clark slept 5 ½ hours the night before the game, including two hours of deep, restorative slumber. In the weight room 48 hours earlier, Clark put his hands on his hips and – on Curtis’ command – sprang from the floor. Pressure plates embedded in the floor zapped signals to a computer before Clark landed. On a video screen, animated lines shot up like the peaks on a heart monitor and then settled back to flat.

Clark’s hop was 21 inches, and that’s his normal mark. But the heaps of data Kupperman and Curtis analyzed showed the player from Woodland Hills, California, wasn’t his normal self. A stretch of hard practices, demanding games and taxing classes were taking a bit of a toll.

Kupperman and Curtis adjusted Clark’s workout plans to speed his recovery ahead of game day with Syracuse.

In that matchup, Clark dished a game-high 11 assists and Bennett got the historic win.

More than a decade ago, Mike Curtis, the men’s basketball team head strength and conditioning coach, began exploring how he could use data to improve practices and training. Natalie Kupperman, a sports scientist and assistant professor at UVA’s School of Data Science, later joined the effort with her expertise in wearable technology and data analysis.

Read the full article at UVA Today.

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