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Stars align for a basketball exhibition game

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Jumpshots and overeager varsity basketball players won't be foremost on Mel Jackson's mind when he comes to Oklahoma for the inaugural Celebrity Basketball Shootout at Midwest City High School. The actor who most recently appeared in the 2008 movie "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," spoke to Oklahoma Gazette two weeks prior, while in a hospital emergency room awaiting news about his mother.

"It is getting better, she's getting better," Jackson said, then breaking from the interview to talk with a fan also in the ER waiting room. 

Jackson's mother was the latest in his family to suffer serious health repercussions that he believed resulted from poor diet and other unhealthy habits. Jackson, who is a vegan, lost his grandfather early as well as his father, who died after a diabetic stroke.

"Now my mom is dealing with potential colon cancer, and these were all things that could have been avoided had they just paid closer attention to their bodies," Jackson said.

The Celebrity Basketball Shootout was organized by Lolita Lucas of My Showbiz Site as a fundraiser for a handful of charities such as Women at Work International, which provides AIDS and malaria medication for African orphanages and In His Name Ministries, a local charity that will offer assistance in paying essential bills like rent or electricity.

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Lucas said she put the event together with her business partner in Los Angeles who works with up-and-coming talent in music and also had contacts in the film industry. They'd discussed different options for fundraisers before settling on basketball.

"We'd thought about bringing a concert, but decided we wanted to do something a little more fun, something all ages could enjoy," Lucas said. "We thought it would be fun to have a celebrity basketball game, a lot of people watch TV and go to movies. We decided it would be fun for the local people to be able to see their favorite celebrities play an exhibition game."

The event will feature 10-12 actors and musicians such as Raven-Symoné and Sam Jones III and Allison Mack of "Smallville." Lucas will also be luring out local media personalities and varsity basketball players from Douglass, Millwood, Star Spencer, and Midwest City High Schools to fill out the rosters, giving a local spin on the game. Some of the celebrities will come in a few days early for media interviews and promotion, but also to visit the schools and discuss various issues with students.

"They can talk to the kids about their roles and how they got to where they are, to show the kids how to pursue their goals," Lucas said.

He intends to lead by example and let his skills on the court prove his point. When asked if there was a fear of being embarrassed because players would be gunning to show up a celebrity, Jackson laughed.

"Listen man, I'm from Chicago, so first of all, I know about shooting basketballs," Jackson said. "I wouldn't be going out there if I thought I'd be embarrassed. The other people out there should be the ones worried about being embarrassed." "Charles Martin

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