Rice University Sport Management majors Sergio Santamaria ’18, Nick Fleder ’17, and Jahid Adam ’18 took part in the first annual NBA Basketball Analytics Hackathon
in New York City. Competing against 60 other groups of college students from around the nation, the team developed solutions to problems in the field of basketball analytics.
Dr. Disch, a professor in the Department of Sport Management, helped recruit the three students, who knew each other through shared classes and games of pick-up basketball. Dillon Chai ’17 rounded out the team. Though not a Sport Management major, he interned in business strategy and basketball operations with the Houston Rockets.
Santamaria actually had the opportunity to attend the Hackathon with a group of former colleagues from his recent internship with STATS LLC, the world’s leading sports data and technology company. Despite the tempting offer, he decided to compete with his Rice classmates. Their combined analytics knowledge created a powerhouse team of which Santamaria, who created his own cross-disciplinary Data Science major at Rice, was one component.
One of Santamaria’s teammates was Adam, who is concentrating on analytics within the Sport Management major and has racked up experience like a season-long marketing strategy internship with the Houston Rockets and an e-commerce analytics internship with Best Buy Canada.
“[The Hackathon] was a good opportunity to get some exposure to the NBA analytics community,” Adam said. “Seeing all the like-minded college students interested in analytics, as well as the commitment that the league is making to encourage analytics, was...really motivating to improve my skills in the field.”
One of those like-minded college students was his own teammate, Fleder, who is also concentrating on analytics within the Sport Management major. He founded the Rice Men’s Basketball Department of Statistics and Analytics, directing analyses of plays, players, and in-game management. This past summer, he interned as a performance analytics intern with the Pacers Sports & Entertainment.
“I…learn[ed] a lot about data analysis in basketball from my summer internship with the Indiana Pacers,” Fleder explained. “During the summer, the time frames were more relaxed for technical projects, so the Hackathon seemed like a particularly appealing opportunity to test my technical and critical thinking skills in a timed, high-pressure setting.”
Even though they did not place in the top five teams in the competition, the high-pressure setting provided the students a completely different experience in working with sport analytics. Rice still made its presence known at the Hackathon, though, with Senthil Natarajan ’17, an electrical and computer engineering major, who represented the University on a team that placed second at the event.
Molly Mohr is an alumna of Rice University who double majored in sport management and English and minored in business.