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By JACOB BLAIR
The News-Democrat Intern
Two former University of Kentucky basketball players visited with students at local elementary schools and held a community event May 30 at Carroll County Middle School.
Champions for a Drug Free Carroll County hosted the events with Jarrod Polson, a senior guard from the 2012 National Championship team and this year’s runners-up team, and Jeff Sheppard, a guard who played for both Rick Pitino’s 1996 championship team and Orlando “Tubby” Smith’s 1998 championship team.
Champions Coordinator Hayley Franklin said the organization brought the basketball players to visit the younger students because of their success both on and off the court. “They are wonderful role models,” Franklin told the CCMS audience. “They came here today to show you what success looks like.”
During the day, Polson and Sheppard visited with students at Kathryn Winn Primary and Cartmell Elementary schools as part of their “School is Cool” tour. In the evening, the duo stopped by CCMS for a meet and greet with students of all ages, as well as community members. About 60-70 people attended the event.
Sheppard said the two have spent nearly the entire month of May traveling to elementary and middle schools across the Commonwealth. However, the middle school seemed familiar to him.
“Man, I’ve been here before,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard said he visited the school before with former Miss America and Miss Kentucky Heather French Henry.
Sheppard said he enjoys community visits because he gets to see the love and the passion the fans have for Kentucky basketball.
During the events, Polson and Sheppard told the audiences the best way to avoid drugs and other problems is to surround yourself with people that are going to help you. They illustrated their message through championship team references.
“Everybody on the team is important,” Sheppard said. “If you don’t believe that, then you’re wrong.”
Polson drove home the message by talking about choices in life.
“There’s this point right here and there’s going to be a lot of distractions,” Polson said. “I chose to stay on the straight path.”
An audience member asked Sheppard why he thought people got involved in drugs and alcohol.
“I think they’re searching for something,” Sheppard said. “It seems like it’s going to be okay, but they don’t understand it’s harmful.”
There was a bit of light-heartedness though as Sheppard joked with Polson and left the audience laughing.
“[Polson] played on the third best national championship team at the University of Kentucky,” Sheppard said.