LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Elijah Lopez loves basketball.
"It's not just a game, it's an art form," the 8th grader said.
The 13-year-old is part of the Summer League's Jr. NBA camp, a free program that serves more than 200 local kids. Lopez says he's developed skills on and off the court.
"They tell us to get our education first and then you can play basketball," Lopez said.
That education happens on the court, in the classroom and even extends to the player's families. Elijah's grandparents went to a class designed for them.
"We as parents learn how to support him as a player," said Daisy Bowen III, Elijah's grandmother.
"Not so much to be a coach, let the coaches do the coaching but be a parent. Always remain a parent and support them and help them communicate to us and understand how they feel abou the game and what they need from us," said Lucius Bowen, Elijah's grandfather.
For now, Elijah's family just loves to watch him on the court and will support him in whatever he wants to do.
"I hope to be in the NBA one day and make a career out of it," said Elijah.
And although many kids dream of playing in the NBA, most do not make it that level. But, part of the NBA Summer League is about exposing kids to all sides of professional basketball, including business, broadcasting and science.
About 200 local kids have the court this morning as part of @jrnba camp at Summer League. It’s free and some kids also have opportunities to learn the business of the NBA, broadcasting skills and science of the sport @KTNV pic.twitter.com/ntmjaTixeP— Jackie Kostek (@JackieKostek) July 11, 2019
"Science, technology, engineering and math has really become a competitive advantage within the context of professional sports," said Dr. John Drazen, a former college basketball player and biomechanics researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. He leads a group of local middle schoolers in the Court Science Academy, a class that integrates STEM with basketball in a real world way.
"Some people say there's an arms race where everyone's trying to collect this really unique data as a competitive advantage so there's all these sports scientists, data scientists, athletic trainers, orthopedic surgeons, all of whom contribute to championships," said Drazen.
The founders of Summer League say this is what the event is all about - getting to watch some the NBA's youngest stars shine on the court while paving the way for future stars.
"We want to make sure we're always making a positive impact because the programs we do are literally ambassadors to what we do during the two weeks at UNLV and to make this a better world of basketball," said Warren LeGarie.