Author: Linda Spice '89
Published Date: 2/14/2019
Actuarial Science Grads Making Impact in NBA
It was the spring of his senior year at Carroll inside of Lowry Room 103 when Mason Yahr ’16 listened to a presentation titled “Mathematics of Geolocation Using Nonstandard Signals.” Dr. John Symms, associate professor of mathematics, hosted a former student, now Dr. Justin Jacobs ’03, as a guest lecturer at this senior capstone class. On the noon hour, Jacobs began to share the intricacies of his work, encouraging the students before him with the future life possibilities that lie ahead for those with an affinity for numbers and data.
Neither could have known on that day in 2016 that within two years they would be connecting again—along with a third Carroll alumnus, Aaron Blackshear ’03—as professional peers through the National Basketball Association. With their numbers knowledge rooted in math and actuarial science classes at Carroll, each followed separate career paths to the same end in analyzing data for professional NBA teams.
“@carrollu is the official analytics feeder school of the NBA,” Yahr tweeted as @yahr-daddy in December 2017 when Jacobs took a job with the Orlando Magic as a senior basketball researcher. Yahr is a sports science data analyst with the Milwaukee Bucks and Blackshear works as an analytics system coordinator for the Detroit Pistons.
From that moment in the classroom, it would be only six months before Yahr would be using his actuarial sciences degree to secure a full-time position with the Milwaukee Bucks. In his role with the Bucks, Yahr focuses on “risk mitigation,” he said, quantifying the physical expenditures of the athletes and working to lower potential injuries to athletes.
And, outside of his work day, just like Jacobs did for him, Yahr has made time to come back to campus to talk with students about the field and to share advice. In the true spirit of Carroll’s mission of service, he said, “You’ll never become fulfilled until you prioritize someone before yourself, not until you help someone to achieve their dreams or establish a legacy. That’s when it becomes fulfilling.”
When Jacobs came to speak to Yahr’s class, he was a research statistician in the data science and cyber analytics division at Sandia National Laboratories in California. He had come to campus to receive the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award for Professional Achievement from the university, adding to accolades in his accomplishments that included a 2014 Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE).
Jacobs left the Orlando Magic in September 2018 and returned full time to Sandia National Labs, with the ability to work part-time remotely for a basketball team on coaching strategy and player performance.
Interested in learning about other Carroll Pioneers who are achieving career success? Check out 'CU in the Workplace,' the Office of Alumni Engagement's new video series featuring an alumna/nus in their workplace each month.
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