Teacher Joe Diaz recruited a squad of players, including Evelin Jimenez, for an NBA Math Hoops tournament.

Evelin Jimenez had less than a 1 percent chance of being selected for a national math competition.

The fifth-grader from 122nd Street Elementary School defied those odds, outscoring more than 25,000 students nationwide to become one of 20 finalists in the NBA Math Hoops Competition. Evelin will travel this month to Detroit for the three-day national championship.

If this were a basketball game, it would be akin to her taking a full-court buzzer-beating shot, and watching it swish in for the win and the championship.

“I never thought I would be the one to be selected for such an important tournament,” Evelin said. “I’m truly grateful for this opportunity.”

NBA Hoops is a math-based board game aligned to the Common Core standards. Students start by drafting a team of five players from the NBA and WNBA. Points are scored by correctly answering math problems applied to a player’s shooting statistics. This informs a player’s strategy of rolling the dice and using a spinner to figure out whether a player scores a basket.

During an NBA Hoops tournament held earlier this year, two players joined the fun from the LA Clippers, which has a partnership with the school. The Clippers, along with the Chris Paul Foundation, funded a STEAM lab and a computer lab at 122nd Street.

In early February, select students participated in an NBA Hoops tournament in downtown Los Angeles. Afterward, veteran teacher Joe Diaz helped a half-dozen of the competitors apply for the national tournament. They submitted a video describing their hobbies, their lives and how Math Hoops helped them learn. They also submitted a letter of recommendation and demonstrated they were accomplished at the game.

Earlier this month, Evelin received word that she was one of the nation’s top 20 players. She is the only representative from Los Angeles.

“She’s an amazing girl,” said Diaz, who will join Evelin and her mother on the Detroit trip. “She works super hard.”

Principal Christine Sanders described Evelin, who is the student body president, as an “all-around high achiever.” She said the girl is well-spoken, thoughtful, kind and leads by example.

Students from 122nd Street Elementary School enjoy a round of NBA Math Hoops.

“She always puts forth her best effort and is dedicated to helping and supporting her fifth-grade peers,” she said. “This achievement is just one of many more to come for this amazing student!”

Already, Evelin said she feels more confident, as well as more hopeful about her future.

“Participating in the Math Hoops tournament has made me feel more optimistic,” she said. “I now believe that I can achieve my goals and dreams.”