STANFORD – Following the rules, making good choices, and learning to be a team player are essential to success on the basketball court – and in life, participants in Operation UNITE’s Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camp were told June 18.

DSC_0139-goal winners“Have fun, give your best effort, and learn how to listen,” Jeff Sheppard, former University of Kentucky all-star, told the 284 participants in the fifth regional camp of 2013. “If you learn how to follow the rules when you are young it will be easier as you get older.”

“Your position is important. You’ve got to be where you’re supposed to be. You cannot win in life by yourself. You need to surround yourself with the right team,” Sheppard said. “Drugs are trying to pull you off the straight line. At the end of the day it will be your choice.”

This is the eighth year for the free basketball camps, and Tuesday’s 49th event drew the largest number of participants. Attendees represented Lincoln, Garrard, Rockcastle, Pulaski and Boyd counties.

Earlier in the afternoon, approximately 70 people turned out to learn more about UNITE from President/CEO Dan Smoot and Treatment Director Amy Yates.

During that meeting – organized by Lincoln County Judge-Executive Jim W. Adams Jr. and state Rep. David Meade (80th District) – community members heard details about UNITE’s treatment voucher program for low-income residents needing help with an addiction and the many educational initiatives, such as Shoot Hoops, which are offered.

Until this year, when redistricting put Lincoln County in the Fifth Congressional District of U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, citizens had not been eligible for UNITE programs.

In addition to treatment and education, Lincoln County Sheriff Curt Folger noted UNITE’s drug task force will be able to bring additional resources to drug investigations in the county.

Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps combine basketball skills instruction in conjunction with anti-drug and self-esteem messages.

All participants received a free event T-shirt, regulation basketball and were entered into a drawing for two portable basketball goals given away at the conclusion of each camp. Goal winners in Leslie County were 12-year-old Isaiah Caudill of Crab Orchard and 10-year-old Carter Muse of Stanford.

Presented by Codell Construction Management and Senture, 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.

In addition to the camp, more than 120 parents and guardians attended a brief UNITE Foundation education program about the problem with synthetic drugs and how to talk to their children about drugs.

Helping make the 2013 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps possible are: Enough (Lifeline of Carter County), Flowers Bakery of London, Inc., Laurel Grocery Company, Walmart of Louisa, Pineville Rotary Club, Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy, Chad’s Hope Teen Challenge Center, First National Bank of Grayson, WestCare Kentucky, Wilhoit Law Office, Breathitt County Agency for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) and Grayson Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation.

Through Tuesday, 6,488 youth have participated in Shoot Hoops Not Drugs events.