McKEE – A free basketball camp featuring former University of Kentucky star Jeff Sheppard is coming to Jackson County on Thursday, July 8.

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

Presented by Phoenix Products, the three-hour Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camp teaches youth fundamental basketball skills while emphasizing the importance for them to stay drug-free.

All participants will receive a special event basketball, T-shirt and be eligible to win one of two portable basketball goals to be given away at the end of camp. Hotdogs and water will be provided.

“We’re excited to be able to bring this camp back to Jackson 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.”

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

Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, whose concern over the region’s drug problems resulted in the creation of UNITE seven years ago, is expected to attend the Jackson County program.

“We know the drug epidemic robs children of their future each and every day. We’ve met hundreds of kids who are suffering because of their parents’ addiction,” Rogers said. “Operation UNITE’s education effort reaches out to young people by informing them about the danger of drugs and providing programs and opportunities that spark hope and dreams inside of them that will keep them going through difficult situations.”

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. In addition to Jackson County, remaining camps will be held on June 28 in Estill County, June 29 in Pike 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.