IRVINE – A free basketball camp featuring former University of Kentucky star Jeff Sheppard is coming to Estill County on Monday, June 28.

The interactive camp program, open to all school-age youth, tips off at 4 p.m. at Estill County High School. Participants are asked to arrive about 30 minutes early to register.

Sponsored by WestCare Kentucky through an ARC mini-grant from the Estill-Powell KY-ASAP Board, this is one of seven regional Operation UNITE Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camps planned for this summer.

All participants will receive a basketball and an event T-shirt. Hotdogs and water will be provided.

“The UNITE Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps have been very popular.” said Jenifer Noland, Appalachian Region Vice President for WestCare. “We wanted to give youth in our area an opportunity to participate.”

Presented by Phoenix Products, the three-hour program teaches youth fundamental basketball skills while emphasizing the importance for them to stay drug-free.

“We’re excited to be able to partner with WestCare in Estill County,” said Karen Engle, UNITE director. “Shoot Hoops camps are fun and provide a safe, drug-free activity where children get to interact with positive role models while learning fundamental basketball skills.”

Residents of WestCare’s treatment facility in Pike County have volunteered to assist with these camps — and other UNITE youth programs — for the past five years, Engle noted. “The energy and excitement they bring is incredible and shows others it is never too late to turn your life around.”

WestCare’s residents are planning to debut a special, high-energy dance routine at the Estill County camp.

Because of the physical nature of the program, participants are asked not to wear open-toe shoes or sandals.

As a senior at the University of Kentucky, Sheppard was named the NCAA’s Final Four Most Valuable Player in the Wildcats’ 1997-98 National Championship season. He would later go on to play one season with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and 3 years in Italy.

In addition to the basketball clinic, UNITE will offer a brief education program for parents and care-givers on the signs, symptoms and danger of drugs.

Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps have already been held in Perry and Leslie counties. Remaining camps will be held on June 29 in Pike County, July 8 in Jackson County, and July 15 in Knott County.

Other 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 and Walmart.

Since 2006 the camps have drawn 3,640 youth participants from 50 Kentucky counties, 10 other states and Mexico.