NEW YORK — Purdue’s Isaac Haas is a mountain of a man, a skilled 7-foot-2, 290-pound basketball player who can change the game on both ends of the floor. Behind all the big-time dunks and blocks, there’s a small, lightweight device that Haas wears on his back during practice that is helping the team.
A national championship contender with a 26-5 record that opens Big Ten tournament play at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Purdue has used the STATSports Viper pod to provide performance monitoring of its players to collect training data. GPS speed and positional data, distance traveled, heart rate and sprints can be measured.
By monitoring how hard players are working in practice, the team can make adjustments that can help them improve performance and prevent overuse, perhaps lowering the risk of injury.
“I think it’s pretty amazing,” Haas, a senior from Hokes Bluff, Ala., said before the season at Big Ten media day. “I think sports technology has come a long way. Obviously just from high school to college, obviously the access to more resources and the access to different types of technology, I think it provides a lot of research opportunities.
“It provides a lot of information to the players on how much energy is being taken out of them, how much more you’re working compared to everyone else. And more importantly, like, for me, how many calories you’re burning and stuff like that, so I think it’s pretty cool. It helps me out a lot.”
Haas said that on days when he isn’t feeling good after a high-intensity practice, he’ll look at the data that’s been uploaded into graphs so he can gain insight on how to improve his training regimen.
“Like trying to see, ‘OK, what am I doing? What do I need to do extra? Do I need to get more sleep tonight? Do I need to eat better? Do I need to eat more?’
“Especially if it’s one of those practices where like everyone’s wheezing and we’re on our knees and stuff like that, and we’re just like dying, we know that it’s just going to be one of those (sleepless) nights.”
Boilermakers guard P.J. Thompson said that a strength and conditioning coach provides players with feedback and can assist in adjusting workouts accordingly based on data from the GPS tracking.
“I never thought I’d be wearing a bra-type thing in basketball with a chip in the back that can tell me so much data,” Thompson said, smiling. “I think that’s kind of crazy, but it’s also kind of amazing too.”
Added Haas, smiling, “Our weight staff, they do a really good job of actually pushing us on that and understanding that our coaches don’t really understand, but that they do and they’re willing to step forward and kind of help us get better with that.”
Purdue associate director of strength & conditioning Josh Bonhotal over the years has led the team’s efforts with STATSports.
Guard Dakota Mathias said the data enables him to take care of his body better by maybe stretching a little more, making dietary adjustments or getting an ice bath.
“I was shocked that we could wear it and it fit right there and it never fell out,” Mathias said of the tracker. “It’s definitely very unique, but it’s a great technology, and that’s where we’re headed in this world. I always say, ‘use every advantage you can get,’ so this is another advantage to see where you’re at and your stamina and various things like that.”