November 29, 2020

Dustin Thode provides Webster men’s basketball with the stats opponents can’t match

Life is a game of numbers for Dustin Thode.

Thode, a senior accounting major, works with statistics every day by making charts in Microsoft Excel, keeping statistics for his online gaming and being an invaluable member of the Webster University men’s basketball team.

A team statistician usually records points, assists, rebounds and the stats that can be found in any box score, but Thode isn’t like other teams’ statisticians. He records the statistics that dissect a team’s scoring proficiency and shooting abilities. And Webster men’s basketball coach Chris Bunch will often look to his stats in the middle of game action.

Senior Dustin Thode records statistics for the previous possession during the Webster University men’s basketball game versus Eureka College (Ill.) on Jan. 26 at Grant Gymnasium. Thode started recording extra categories of stats for the team, which helps him in his accounting major. PHOTO BY DAN DUNCAN.

“He (Bunch) told me to, during the game, come over and tell him if there is anything I see that is not good in my stat sheet,” Thode said. “We have a tendency as a team to come down, not run the play and maybe pass the ball once and then we jack up a three. And if that happens, I can tell Coach.”

Thode records six different categories of statistics on each possession throughout the game: identifying players on the court, number of passes, current score, time on the shot clock that shot was attempted, who took the shot and whether it was a successful basket or not.

Thode added keeping track of time on the shot clock to his duties. His role started with simple possession charts, but after asking men’s coach Chris Bunch how to make facilitating the stats to the team easier, he revolutionized Webster basketball stat keeping.

“We had issues with what players call ‘hooping,’ or just running down the court and not really running plays,” Thode said. “Running plays and wearing down the defense was as important as running plays. So I started entering the shot clock and (it) turned into me really getting bored and taking it farther.”

To cure some of Thode’s boredom, he also keeps some records of the opposing team so that Bunch can have something for comparisons.

“That right there takes up my full attention,” Thode said. “I can’t do anything more than that.”

Another job that Thode appointed himself requires him to take the Webster possession chart and break down each player’s percentage of times they had possession of the ball, and if that led to points. Thode said a few times he has stayed longer after games than the coaches to get those stats complete.

Bunch said he often calls upon Thode’s stats during halftime in the locker room to lay out, in better detail, what the team needs to improve upon.

“Sometimes (as a coach) you just felt it was that way, but now you actually have that tangible proof,” Bunch said.

Thode relates his help to the basketball team to being an accountant relaying numbers to a company CEO.

“The purpose of accountants and auditors are to perform analysis on things,” Thode said, “So, the statements we come out with can help managers make better decisions for the company.”

He said he treats keeping basketball stats similarly to an accounting internship, and Thode wants to do his part to earn a victory each night he is with the team.

“If I can help even in the tiniest bit in helping our coaches in a decision on who to play, what to play or how to play their offense, I feel like it’s helpful,” Thode said.

Bunch and players such as senior forward Roman Robinson and junior center Jarrod Huskey believe that Thode does give the team an advantage over many of their opponents. But that advantage doesn’t end with just numbers.

The biggest help Thode believes he is, besides a statistician, is being the team water boy. He said he notices Webster is fortunate to have someone like him because many other teams don’t.

“I think to myself, a short 30 or 60 seconds you’re suppose to be listening to your coach, you’ve got players walking back and forth getting water,” Thode said. “Our players have the chance to sit down on a full 60-second timeout and if they want anything I’ll get it for him.”

Robinson recalled during a timeout, Thode skipped him on the round of water and Thode quickly came to Robinson’s aid.

“He went back and got two waters for me,” Robinson said. “And I need my water.

“He is happy about it and everyone thanks him and we don’t take it as a small little job he has. It’s respectful and it’s all good.”

Thode also has a list of players’ personal needs each game, which include one Gatorade per half for Huskey, gum for senior guard Cody Bradfisch and last season for Stephan Wittingham, Thode had packages of Twizzlers on the bench.

“It’s the same thing as the team: when they try hard, we do good,” Thode said. “When I try hard in my job, it’s going to help.”

The only time Thode said he has struggled with his job is when close games are on the line. He said, like the rest of the team, he gets an adrenaline rush and focuses more on the action than a statistician should. He recalled the men’s St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament last season as particularly exciting.

“I was, like, into the game, and we were all getting hyped up about the calls from the ref and stuff,” Thode said. “I was missing key things, though, and I was asking the player next to me, ‘You remember who shot that three?’”

He said when he is this close to the team and when the game is close at the end, he feels just like a parent in the crowd rooting on the team.

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