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Dominating the Court

International basketball goes next level with USC Marshall-developed startup

January 18, 2018
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When it comes to the business of basketball, Brandon Smith ’14 shoots to win. His startup, Global Sports Analytics (GSA), is transforming the way international teams recruit and train to gain a competitive advantage.

Smith’s brand-building journey has taken him to Europe and other points abroad, but his path ran directly through USC Marshall.

GSA offers a proprietary, web-based software (called GSAEdge) that provides game data, league statistics and performance analysis to teams that compete within the international basketball community. “We use advanced metrics to help build rosters for European teams,” Smith says. For players, the GSA developed a sports agency that leverages Edge’s algorithm to, among other things, maximize client earnings.

“Basically, we identified a hole in the ecosystem, and we’re bridging the gap—matching up teams and players—so that everyone can thrive,” says Smith.

Shoots and Scores

Smith began conceptualizing GSA after graduating from Wesleyan and completing a stint at JP Morgan Chase. Once the idea was born, he saw USC Marshall as the ideal place for it to incubate.

“Marshall was the perfect mix: a school that lives and breathes entrepreneurship, housed within a university with a big-time athletics program,” he says. Smith’s academic excellence resulted in a full ride for his MBA studies, and his entrepreneurial flair earned him the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies’ coveted Marcia Israel Outstanding Student award for his work on the GSA business model. As soon as he completed his degree, he put his model to the test – and it quickly exceeded all expectations.

“Basically, we identified a hole in the ecosystem, and we’re bridging the gap—matching up teams and players—so that everyone can thrive." -- Brandon Smith '14 - Global Sports Analytics

Barely three years after launch, GSA has provided services to 11 European teams in 2017 and is on track to do so for 31 teams in 2018, according to the company's projections. 

“There was a clear need for our service, and we’ve continued to expand,” says Sean Moran ’17, GSA’s director of scouting. “We’re based in New York and have guys in L.A. and a presence in Chicago. Brandon is in Berlin, and our tech team is in Mumbai. The beauty of such a far-flung operation is that we offer around-the-clock support: When one of us is closing down for the night, someone else is just getting started.”

As GSA has grown, it has also continued to hone its suite of offerings, including a free email newsletter for fans, the GSAReport, focusing on international basketball, the U.S. college leagues and the NBA. The news is gathered from an array of global sources and includes articles on the lifestyle, fashion and politics of the game.

The Marshall Difference

Smith says USC Marshall played a key role in GSA’s development. “There were so many people at Marshall who influenced me,” he recalls. “David Carter and Courtney Brunious at the Sports Business Institute were instrumental in my thinking about how GSA could work. [Entrepreneurship and Viterbi professor] Andrea Belz was my mentor—we talked every week. And, of course, everyone at the Greif Center was amazing.”

The support he received from the school is a clear indication of what Smith calls “the Marshall difference.” “Everyone was willing to give me honest feedback, and the access I had, from Dean Ellis on down, was incredible,” he says. “The Trojan Family takes care of its own.”

With funding secured through the second quarter of 2018, Smith says, GSA is poised for positive growth in the New Year. “Basketball’s popularity is exploding internationally, and we’re excited to enter markets in the Middle East and South America,” he says.

“Ultimately, our goal is to strengthen the global basketball community—contributing to better team play and connecting fans through a common language that can bring people together no matter where they live.”