A Massachusetts man, destined to be a basketball great, once lived and breathed a nightmare tormented by drug addiction. Now sober since 2008, he's living his real dream - helping the world through his story.
Chris Herren, who visited Ocean City High School in April, is back with plans to visit the Jordan Road School in Somers Point on Nov. 6. He will candidly retell his account of playing pro basketball one night and overdosing the next.
"I had heard from several middle school teachers who saw him speak this spring that they were very moved. He has a very powerful story that the students and community should hear," said Susan Dugan, principal of the Jordan Road School. "Through his sobriety, he is reaching out to young boys and girls to appreciate life, to feel empowered and to stay away from drugs."
The Somers Point school is partnering with the Somers Point Police Department to present Herren's "Unguarded - A Story of Hope" to high school students, freshmen or older, and any adult in the community. Dugan expects 150 Mainland Regional High School students to attend as well.
Herren will speak during school hours the next morning to seventh- and eighth-graders at the Jordan Road School, eighth-graders from St. Joseph Regional Elementary School, Belhaven Middle School in Linwood and Northfield Middle School.
"The goal is to reach as many kids as possible, to get this message out," Somers Point police Chief Michael Boyd.
Herren, a native of Fall River, Mass., scored more than 2,000 points during his high school career. He played standout games for both Boston College and Fresno State University, followed by performances with NBA's Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets, as well as with many teams abroad. His decade-long alcohol and substance abuse problem, however, cost him his career and almost his life, according to the ESPN documentary "Unguarded."
The SPPD, which started a Community Awareness Program in February, wanted to expand its reach using Herren's story.
Their DARE program, presented to the fifth grade, focuses on skills for young students to use to avoid involvement with drugs, gangs and violence. The department decided to invest in the speaker in order to reach out to the junior high and high school levels, Boyd said.
Herren has participated in multiple Impact Speaker Series events.
"This is something that I started doing about three years ago, and it's a testimony to how much it's needed," Herren said via cell phone from his Rhode Island home. "This is a topic that isn't going away - if anything, it's only getting worse."
Boyd, who has been working for the city for 25 years, can attest to that.
"Through my experience, we see younger and younger kids coming through our doors (for drug-related issues), so we are putting a spotlight on this sort of event. The department has a responsibility to teach," Boyd said.
Herren, author of "Basketball Junkie: A Memoir," also created Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren Inc., which provides personal basketball training to young athletes of every ability level, as well as instituted the Herren Project, which delivers assistance for those suffering with addiction.
"I'm grateful that I have come out on the other end - one day at a time - and that I can share this and hopefully prevent other kids from going down that same path."
Contact Caitlin Honan:
If you go
What: 'Unguarded - A Story of Hope' with Chris Herren
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 6
Where: Jordan Road School, 129 Jordan Road, Somers Point
More info: The presentation is open to any adult in the community or high schooler, 14 years of age and older.