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Q&A with Aaron Barzilai, Founder of Her Hoops Stats

Women’s basketball has long lacked a reliable stats website. Her Hoops Stats is working to change that.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Iowa vs Northwestern
Her Hoops Stats ranks Iowa forward Megan Gustafson (10) as one of the most efficient players in the country.
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Followers of women’s college basketball know how difficult it can be to find statistics about their favorite teams. Most schools keep track of their own stats but they are typically clunky and difficult to use. Plus, there’s no way to compare to other teams or even see who’s leading the country in points per game or steals per game.

Her Hoops Stats is here to change that. As a subscription site that launched in late 2017, they bring both traditional and advanced women’s college basketball statistics to fans, media, coaches and everyone else for a yearly fee of $20.

We spoke with founder Aaron Barzilai to discuss why he started the company and what the site provides for its members.

1. What was your motivation for starting Her Hoop Stats?

It all started with a call from Alex Varlan this past July. We had worked together when I was the Director of Basketball Analytics for the Philadelphia 76ers a few years ago. Alex had just joined the staff of the Lady Vols and reached out to me to see if I could recommend any good women’s basketball stats sites. To be honest, I hadn’t really been following women’s basketball that closely, though I was aware they had challenges getting good data.

After doing the research, I was pretty surprised to conclude that even after Sue Bird’s call to arms in The Players’ Tribune there weren’t any great options. I’ve been working as an independent consultant the past few years and had just wrapped up a project before Alex called. So, I thought “why not build something myself”? I thought it would be somewhere between a business idea and a public service and hoped it could be both.

2. Who is your intended audience?

We’ve intentionally set our subscription price at just $20 a year so that the entire women’s basketball community can be our audience. Our goal is to be the gold standard for both traditional and advanced statistics for women’s basketball at all levels. With the information we’re unlocking for the game, I’d expect that over time that the percentage of conversations about women’s hoops involving stats would evolve to be the same percentage as it is on the men’s side. Data shouldn’t be a part of every conversation as there’s more to the game than just the numbers, but should it be in 10%? 1%? 0.1%? Regardless, that’s a lot of discussions of women’s hoops going on across the country, especially in March.

We think our subscribers at Her Hoop Stats fall into a number of categories. Coaches have been early adopters, as have SIDs/Communications Directors at the schools. Again, rather than charging a high price that only a handful of schools can afford, we think that the coaching staff and SIDs at all 349 D1 schools should be able to find $20 in their budget. Broadcasters have also been early adopters and we’ve had great support from ESPN and others referring to the site on air. Families and players are subscribing, as are season ticket holders and other die-hard fans. Youth players in high school and younger might also enjoy the site, my guess is that just about every girl’s high school team has one player that is into the numbers.

We’re counting on that wide audience so that our subscribers are a reasonable percentage of the roughly 4 million people that will watch the championship game this year. If you’re interested enough to watch, Her Hoop Stats could be a good resource for you. Ultimately, we need support across the community to ensure that we can afford to invest our time in the site and continue to improve it. If you think about it, we’re essentially asking the community to crowdfund our effort so that we can all share in the information.

3. How does access to this kind of information enhance the fan experience?

There are many ways. Again, numbers are not for everyone, but in my experience, people love interesting information and it can help provide context. We include both traditional stats and advanced stats on the site so it is useful regardless of how comfortable you are with data. For the traditional stats that have been available previously, such as points per game, we show you the player’s rank and percentile in the NCAA. It was easy to know last year that Kelsey Plum was the top scorer in the country, but shouldn’t her teammate Katie Collier and her family know that she was in the top 10% in blocks per game with 1.1? That has been much harder to know for anyone but the best players in the game in the past.

At the same time, we offer “advanced” stats that are well established in the game of basketball. We can tell you that Megan Gustafson is the most efficient shooter in the country, with a True Shooting Percentage of 70%. That means she averages a remarkable 1.40 points each time she tries to shoot, including when fouled and sent to the line. We can also tell you that Baylor leads the NCAA by grabbing the board on over 43% of their own misses. By looking at “rate” stats such as these that control for opportunity, the site helps users understand the game a little better.

4. Are there any upcoming product updates that you’re excited about?

We’re actively working on a number of features. In addition to creating predictions for each game in the tournament (and regular season going forward), we’ve also been working on adding ranks and percentiles in conference. We’re thinking of other features including more charts instead of tables. At the same time, we’re thinking about expanding to cover the WNBA and other leagues such as NCAA Division II and III. If readers have any suggestions or requests, please let us know. Our twitter handle is @herhoopstats, that is probably the easiest way to reach us as well as discuss your wish list with the rest of our followers.

5. Your website’s “About” section mentions support from the women’s basketball community. Can you go into more detail about people within that community who have been supportive of your work and how they have been supportive?

It’s really been amazing how much and how quickly we’ve been embraced. It really speaks to the need for more data in the women’s game. People in and around the game recognize that with more information we can have better discussions about the game. My hope is that the site will have some positive contribution to the growth of the game.

So many people have provided advice as we were building the site and have helped spread the word since we launched. There’s probably not room to mention everyone but it’s ranged from broadcasters such as Debbie Antonelli, Rebecca Lobo, Kara Lawson, and LaChina Robinson to Cheryl Reeve to writers such as Doug Feinberg of the AP, Richard Deitsch now of The Athletic, Lindsay Schnell of USA Today, Howard Megdal of Summitt Hoops, Kevin Pelton of ESPN and many more.

6. Anything else you’d like to add?

I just want to say thanks to the folks that have been working on Her Hoop Stats with me. Neil Seas, Savvas Tjortjoglou, and Grace Dickman have also put in countless hours to help build and promote the site since the summer. It’s been a leap of faith and a chance to learn and contribute rather than a paying job so far, and I really appreciate their willingness to spend the time and put up with me. Her Hoop Stats wouldn’t be where it is today without them. Cyndie Merten and Charlie Goldsmith both recently reached out to help because they believed in what we’re doing and wanted to help, I’m looking forward to collaborating with them more as well.

Also, thanks for having me on Swish Appeal, and thanks to the readers for their interest. Finally, as one last shameless plug, if people have read this far please subscribe!