ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Hundreds of kids from across three states are gathering in Albuquerque for a huge Native American basketball tournament.

Sixty-four teams of kids from schools across New Mexico, Arizona and Utah are competing to be the best in the largest Native American basketball tournament in the state.

For the kids, it’s all about the sport they love to play.

“It’s an important event for us because some of us, we all grew up playing basketball,” said Tasha Willis.

But for those who organized the tournament, there’s an even bigger goal in mind.

“We want to bring our students together and have them compete through sportsmanship, and have them attend educational workshops dealing with health, self-esteem, as well as college prep,” said Shawn Secatero, Director of the Striking Eagle Native American basketball Invitational.

Secatero says all of the students must attend workshops at the University of New Mexico that are geared toward college, careers and healthy lifestyles. The workshops are led by motivational speakers and community role models.

All of this to let them know they have what it takes to attend college.

“Kids need something to look forward to. They need to strive for a goal and this kind of helps them pursue that goal,” said Melissa Nakai, graduate student.

Organizers say 24 players from last year are now freshman at UNM.

Since the tournament began in 2010, it has grown from 28 teams to 64. The teams include middle and high school teams.

The proceeds from the tournament will be used to establish a food bank on the reservation as well as youth summer college programs, and to pay for tournament expenses.

For more information on the Striking Eagle Native American basketball Invitational, click here.