Simon Gerszberg Champions in Sports Analytics

ShotQuality, created by senior Simon Gerszberg, is a product that quantifies basketball shots on a play-by-play basis, utilizing over 90 different variables based on player percentages in different areas. Gerszberg, with the program, hopes to create change for coaches by optimizing player and shot selection. ShotQuality is currently utilized by numerous college basketball teams, including Stanford and Colgate. 

It is the product of Gerszberg’s passion for sports analytics, which initially developed in the New York City native in high school. That interest has since blossomed into the sports analytics program ShotQuality, which was the centerpiece at Entrepreneurship Weekend (E-Weekend) and a venture under Colgate’s Thought Into Action (TIA) program.

Gerszberg’s first major project in sports analytics was in eleventh grade, when he interned with Sports Illustrated. He worked on a 1,000 word article from the end of his junior year in high school to the beginning of his sophomore year of college. The piece, which was on baseball statistics, was ultimately never published by Sports Illustrated but ran in another magazine. 

“That was really challenging, but really great for my growth. I basically re-wrote 40,000 words in a 1,000 word article that kept getting reworked and tweaked. I was obsessed with the article idea,” Gerszberg said. “It was a good experience understanding the sports industry and how hard it is to break in.” 

At the beginning of sophomore year at Colgate, Gerszberg started working on a project on shot selection in the NBA. Come winter break of his sophomore year, Gerszberg had begun applying this work to analytics for Colgate’s men’s basketball team. 

“I was doing basically ShotQuality by hand for them and once I found a way to automate it, this past December break had a lot of potential and during quarantine I had more time to work through all the kinks.”

After sophomore year, ShotQuality progressed from a handwritten shot selection program to excel, to R, a programming language. R allows users to run through multiple games instead of looking at one game. 

Gerszberg sought to further develop ShotQuality under formal guidance. Thus, he joined TIA the spring of his junior year, shortly after the pandemic. His relationship and conversations with his mentors made the experience for him. 

“It was most helpful for me in terms of the mentors that I still work with, how they broadened a lot of my perspectives that I didn’t understand. They helped me see the big picture. A lot of my mind goes to, ‘I want to fix this, this, and this.’ But they really helped me see, envision, the bigger picture and focus more on that side.”

Recently, ShotQuality has gained significant esteem and fame within the Colgate community. This is shocking, strange, and exciting for Gerszberg.

“It definitely feels good, but it also makes me a little uncomfortable. I was just doing this because it is something I was passionate about. I don’t know if I even wanted it to be big. It definitely feels good, but it’s not my main thing that I wanted.”

Gerszberg’s work was most recently showcased at E-Weekend on Sunday, April 9. Gerszberg tabled alongside around 30 other ventures. He pitched to alumni, students, parents and other Colgate community members. 

Gerszeberg also took the stage in a Shark-Tank-esq competition alongside five of the 30 entrepreneurs all hoping to win a prize of $5,000. His venture was selected by TIA leadership for its originality, development and promise. ShotQuality, alongside the venture First Impressions Nails, were selected as the winners in this Shark-Tank game.

“The pitch was very stressful, I had never done anything like that. Everything I do with coaches or anyone is always on Zoom. It’s different going up on a stage. It was a really good experience.”

After E-Weekend, Gerszberg hopes to expand ShotQuality beyond college teams to the international sphere, high schools, the NBA and the WNBA. 

Gersberg hopes to enjoy more little moments within his journey with ShotQuality, like that he shared with the assistant coach from University of Arizona’s basketball team the summer before his sophomore year, in July 2020. After seeing Gerszberg’s work with ShotQuality on Twitter, this coach called Gerszberg. He told the young entrepreneur that ShotQuality was “‘something the team wanted.’” 

“It was a great feeling to have a top-tier team and coach want something that you’re making.”

This conversation was among multiple milestones and memorable moments along his journey leading ShotQuality.  

ShotQuality also brought Gerszberg to having coffee with John Hollander, one of the most renowned sports analysts in the world. 

Another moment in Gerszberg’s career with ShotQuality came when he worked on a broadcast with John Hollinger, one of the most renowned sports analysts in the world. Gerszberg was doing stats for a game that Hollinger was announcing. Gerszberg and Hollinger later sat down and talked for an hour, enjoying coffee together. 

“He is definitely a role model or mentor. He was announcing a game that I was doing stats for. We talked for about an hour. That was pretty crazy. I would think that talking to somebody like that would make me nervous, but when I’m talking about basketball, it’s not so nerve wracking.”

Gerszberg shared that he listened to about fifty of Hollinger’s podcasts before the conversation. This work ethnic, this thoroughness will continue to follow Gerszberg as he expands ShotQuality beyond college basketball and to the international sphere, high schools, the NBA, and the WNBA.