HYDEN – Fundamental skills used to play basketball – or any other sport – can be applied to the rest of your life.

“The best way to get from where you are today to where you want to be is to set a goal,” Jeff Sheppard told the 89 school-age youth participating in Operation UNITE’s second Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camp of 2010 at Mountain View Elementary on Thursday, June 10. “None of us is perfect, but you need to set goals, work hard and avoid being distracted by bad influences – such as using alcohol or other drugs.”

“The best way to stay on a straight line is not to try and do it by yourself,” continued Sheppard, the NCAA’s Final Four Most Valuable Player in the Kentucky Wildcats’ 1997-98 national championship season. “You cannot win in life by yourself. It takes a team. It takes you hanging around the right people.”

Winners of two portable basketball goals, donated by Walmart, were 8-year-old Colton Hensley of Stinnett and 10-year-old Kaitlyn Bray of Hyden.

During the three-hour camp, presented by Phoenix Products, Sheppard emphasized encouragement and effort as the most important ingredients to achieve one’s goals.

In addition, parents and care-givers attended a brief education program to discuss the importance of talking with children about drugs along with recognizing behavioral and physical signs of drug use.

“Children whose parents regularly speak with them about the dangers of drugs are 50 percent less likely to abuse drugs,” noted Sarah Flynn, research and community outreach director for UNITE. “Kentucky ranks highest in the nation for the abuse of prescription drugs, so it is vital that your children understand that pills are just as dangerous and addictive as other drugs.”

Among the volunteers assisting with the Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camp were residents from the Chad’s Hope and WestCare residential treatment facilities in Clay and Pike counties, respectively.

“The energy and excitement they bring to these camps is incredible,” said Karen Engle, UNITE director. “It shows others that it is never too late to turn your life around.”

Future camps will be held:

• Monday, June 28, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Estill County High School.

• Tuesday, June 29, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Phelps High School in Pike County.

• Tuesday, June 29, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at East Ridge High School in Pike County.

• Thursday, July 8, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Jackson County Middle School.

• Thursday, July 15, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Knott County SportsPlex.

Since 2006 the camps have drawn more than 3,600 youth participants from 50 Kentucky counties, 10 other states and Mexico.

In addition to Phoenix Products, sponsors for UNITE’s 2010 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball tour include: Jackson Energy, Knott County SportsPlex, Knott Drug Abuse Council, Pikeville Medical Center, Senture, SouthEast Telephone, Walmart and WestCare-Kentucky.

To view photos from the camp click here.