Because of concerns related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Operation UNITE announced its popular Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camps planned for June have, regrettably, been cancelled.

“This is not something UNITE wanted to do, but following the guidance from Governor Andy Beshear and state health officials it is something we must do at this time,” said Nancy Hale, president/CEO of the non-profit organization.

“In addition, Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps are entirely supported through community donations and staffed by volunteers from UNITE Coalitions and our recovery communities,” Hale continued. “With so much economic uncertainty, this was not the time to solicit donations that could, instead, be used to support needy families and local businesses.”

“A crowd is still going to be a dangerous thing until we are further along in defeating this virus,” Beshear stated during his daily COVID-19 briefing on April 29. “It’s something we need to continue to avoid.”

Although he outlined a tentative plan to restart some businesses and permit social gatherings by late May, the governor said it would likely be late June or early July before some youth sports activities are again allowed.

Five free regional basketball camps – conducted by former University of Kentucky point guard and four-time All-SEC Academic Team member Jarrod Polson – had been planned in Breathitt, Harlan, Johnson, Magoffin and McCreary counties.

“The Shoot Hoops Not Drugs program has been a highlight of my summer the last several years,” Polson stated. “While I am saddened we won’t be able to host the basketball camps this year, I look forward to being back in 2021!”

Hale said it is UNITE’s intention to hold the 2021 camps in the same counties as planned for this year.

“Our staff has contacted each of the superintendents and they are in full support of the decision to postpone camps this summer,” Hale said. “In addition, they look forward to holding Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps next year.”

This would have been the 15th season for Shoot Hoops Not Drugs. These camps provide school-age youth an opportunity to interact with positive role models, receive positive life-skill and self-esteem messages that emphasize the importance for them to stay drug-free, all while receiving basic basketball skills instruction.

As part of each camp, parents and guardians are invited to attend a brief education program. This year the focus would have been about the dangers posed by stimulant drugs – including such commonly used drugs as Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Adderall, and Ecstasy.

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Since its inception in 2006, there have been 85 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps drawing 11,375 youth participants from 63 Kentucky counties, 20 other states, and two other countries – England and Mexico. A total of 2,528 adults have attended the awareness sessions.

“While I am saddened we won’t be able to host the basketball camps this year, I look forward to being back in 2021!”

Jarrod Polson