MT VERNON – Finding good role models who walk “the straight line” can be difficult, but participants in Operation UNITE’s Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camp July 14 had several stars guiding their way.

The camp, held at Rockcastle County Middle School in Mt. Vernon, was conducted by former University of Kentucky basketball standout Jeff Sheppard. Assisting with the camp were members of the Lady Rockets 2011 state championship squad and its star player, Sara Hammond.

This was the last of six regional programs to be held this summer and drew 131 youth participants from six counties (Rockcastle, Laurel, Madison, Jackson, Pulaski and Perry).

To view photos from camp click here.

Winners of two basketball goals given away during camp were 11-year-old Courtney Wren of Brodhead and 13-year-old Rachael Davis of Pulaski County. Davis later donated the ball goal to another camp participant.

Presented by Phoenix Products, Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps are fun, interactive, and provide a safe, drug-free activity where children have an opportunity to interact with positive role models while learning fundamental basketball skills.

Sheppard, named the NCAA’s Final Four Most Valuable Player in the Wildcats’ 1997-98 National Championship season, emphasized the importance of teamwork and effort throughout the camp.

Teamwork, he said, was one reason the Lady Rockets, under head coach Chrysti Noble, captured their first ever state title in March.

Hammond, the first female McDonald’s All-American from Kentucky, was also named the state’s Miss Basketball and won the Gatorade Payer of the Year and Associated Press Player of the Year awards during her senior season. She was an active participant in her school’s UNITE Club.

Sheppard praised the University of Louisville-bound Hammond for her poise, attitude, ability and energy – all of which are important in deciding to stay away from the temptation of drugs.

At the beginning of camp, parents and guardians of the youth participants were presented a program on the importance of keeping close tabs on their prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing epidemic across the nation, and studies have shown that most teens first experiment with drugs obtained from their family or a friend’s family without their knowledge. During the session UNITE staff stressed the importance of keeping track and properly disposing of their prescription and over-the-counter medications, the focus an “Accidental Dealer” awareness campaign earlier this year.

Since 2006 there have been 39 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps with a total of 5,055 youth participants. These participants have come from 53 Kentucky counties and five other states.

Helping make the 2011 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps possible are:

Gold Sponsors – Codell Construction, Knox County UNITE Coalition, Rockcastle County UNITE Coalition, Senture, SouthEast Telephone and Walmart of Eastern Kentucky.

Silver Sponsors – Citizens Bank & Trust (Jackson), Citizens National Bank (Somerset), First National Bank (Jackson), Huffman & Huffman, PSC (Somerset), and Johnny Maco’s Electrical Contracting (Jackson).

Bronze Sponsors – Alton Blakley Family of Dealerships (Somerset), Community Trust Bank (Pikeville) and St. Joseph-Martin (Floyd County).