Miami – The Miami All Stars is an organization that helps underprivileged young people in South Florida who are outstanding at basketball to attend university on sports scholarships.
Most of the players are Hispanics who come from struggling single-parent families.
"Through sport we can integrate these boys so they can develop as basketball players and as human beings," coach/director Carlos Alamilla told Efe, adding that it is "so important to give these kids the chance to learn discipline, respect, leadership and self-esteem."
But the non-profit organization's main goal is to teach the young men to excel on the basketball court in order to win scholarships to college.
"The basketball programs at some universities can lead to multimillion-dollar contracts," Alamilla said.
"For universities, winning a championship brings in a lot of money, so they want the best players. That's why these institutes of higher learning offer full scholarships, including registration fees and living expenses for the students," he said.
"Basketball is the perfect solution for many young people from low-income families. It's the key to getting out of that situation and being able to study," Alamilla said.
"We want them to graduate from high school and continue studying in college thanks to sports scholarships," the director said.
Daniel Lopez plays with the Miami All Stars and got interested in the project because "I wanted to play in other cities of the United States and study in a good university at the same time."
"In August I'll do some tryouts to be able to play professionally. My dream is to play in the NBA and be able to help my family," he says.
Stephan Dimitrjevich, 19, has already won a scholarship at a university in New York after training with this Miami team.
"I'm very grateful to Carlos and to the whole team for having helped prepare me as a person and as a basketball player," the athlete said.
Juan Carlos Perez is the dad of one of the players on the team and is very satisfied with the program.
"It teaches them different levels of competition, something they can then apply at school to get the best results. If you never train, you'll never play well. The same goes with school - if you don't do your homework, you won't get ahead," Perez said.
The organization has ties with the NBA's Miami Heat, and every year holds a summer camp in which some of the Heat's big stars take part.
Some Miami All Stars players also get the chance to play with the Junior NBA, a nationwide league in which some 800,000 young people participate.
The Miami All Stars is financed by private donations and government subsidies.