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IPS To Shine at NBA Math Hoops Tournament: Student and Educator Selected for Event

Ileana Mora-Gomez poses with her jersey.

William McKinley School 39, an Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) member, will send representatives to the NBA Math Hoops Global Tournament in New York City for the second consecutive year.

William McKinley School 39 will be represented by sixth grader Ileana Mora-Gomez, who will compete in the tournament. 

Jacob Gregory, a sixth-grade teacher at William McKinley who oversees the NBA Math Hoops program, has been selected as one of three 2024 Learn Fresh Outstanding Educators–and the only one from Indiana. At no expense, he will join Mora-Gomez in New York City, where they will participate in global festivities, including the NBA Draft.

NBA Math Hoops uses basketball and NBA/WNBA themes to teach math and social-emotional skills to students in grades 4-8 through a free board game, curriculum, and community program, preparing them for high school math and enhancing self-regulation and executive function in various learning settings.

Started in 2013, NBA Math Hoops came to Indiana in 2022 when the Pacers Foundation and the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation began a collaboration to reinforce STEM education in IPS and schools across Indiana.

“Having a student selected for two years in a row to compete at the NBA Math Hoops Global Tournament in New York is quite an honor for William McKinley.,” said Principal Deana Harger-Perry. “It demonstrates our commitment to the program and how the support we receive from the Pacers Foundation has enabled our students to excel in the program.  The partnerships have afforded our students and staff experiences that they would not have otherwise.  

“Mr. Gregory is committed to the success of the Math Hoops program at our school and goes above and beyond to ensure our school fulfills all program requirements. Mr. Gregory being chosen as one of three 2024 Learn Fresh Outstanding Educators and the first chosen from our region is well-deserved.”

Months of gameplay culminate in the NBA Math Hoops Global Championship. To qualify for application to the Global Championship, students must play a minimum of 25 games of NBA Math Hoops and complete 10 curriculum units throughout a program season. Students must also display a high degree of growth through the program, a dedication to practicing good sportsmanship, and an ability to overcome adversity inside or outside the classroom. Students meeting these criteria are nominated by their program educator to apply, and participants are selected from the pool of applicants.

Last year, Jovana Sekulovski, then a fifth-grade student at William McKinley School 39, went to New York for the tournament with Gregory at her side. 

This year’s event will take place June 25-28 in New York in conjunction with the 2024 NBA Draft, with participants drawn from over 206,000 students who competed in NBA Math Hoops programming during the 2023-24 school year. Throughout the event, students will participate in STEM activations with key partners, explore New York City, and compete to be named NBA Math Hoops Global Champion.

“Ileana is a rare student who combines exceptional natural ability with a willingness and eagerness to learn,” Gregory said.  Ileana is a hardworking and respectful student who is always grateful for everything she receives. Ileana was present for all Math Hoops Club meetings—she even brought her second-grade sister and helped her with the gameplay— and demonstrated excellent sportsmanship.” 

Gregory was the 2023 NBA Math Hoops Teacher of the Year. He has been with IPS for 17 years, spending the last decade teaching sixth-grade math and science. 

“Education doesn’t come with a lot of recognition, so to say this was a surprise is an understatement,” he said “The Math Hoops Club at William McKinley has not only provided our students with an opportunity to hone their fact fluency and strategic decision making but also given the students a sense of belonging and opportunities to experience things like a Pacers game or playing Math Hoops on the court at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. “