More than a thousand students walked into the gymnasium at Ramapo High School on Tuesday, Nov. 27, to hear former NBA star, Chris Herren, tell his story.
Herren spoke of a life of destruction, disaster, and failure, all brought on by an unmatched athletic talent, a dream, and unbearable pressure. His goal is simple: save one kid from going down the path of alcohol, drug addiction and suicidal thoughts that took him 14 years to overcome.
Herren began by predicting that some of the students in the crowd would shrug off his message because this kind of thing wouldn’t happen to them. Herren admitted that he was that kid in high school who disputed anyone with an anti-drug message. But, contrary to his challenge, the student body hung on every word as he spoke about his downward spiral into drug addiction.
As Herren walked up and down the court, he stopped on the basketball inlayed on the floor. He stomped on it and told the students that this was supposed to be fun. The pressure for him was so great that his passion for basketball turned to hatred.
The idea for Herren to speak came from lacrosse player, Nate Chung, who heard him speak at Rutgers University last spring.
When Chung spoke to advisers Courtney Zizzo and Melissa Ferro for help, his words were clear: “Herren is a guy like us, and dealing with the same issues many Ramapo students face. He could really make a difference.”
With the support of building principal, Louis Moore, and Ramapo’s parent organization, APTS, Ramapo was able to seal the deal.
Herren’s story began as a 6’2” guard from Fall River, Mass., with a high school scoring record of 2,073 career points. Among his many accolades, he was named a McDonald’s All American. Recruited by top Division I programs, he played for Boston College until an injury and several failed drug tests forced him out. Herren got a second shot at Fresno State, which earned him the second round draft pick from the Denver Nuggets. He was traded to the Boston Celtics in 2000, his dream job in his home state.
Unfortunately, Herren’s drug addiction became his sole focus and his dream fell right through his hands.
Sober since 2008, Herren currently speaks around the country to high school students, college athletes and major league players. His foundation, The Herren Project, provides assistance to families affected by addiction. Herren also launched Project Purple, anti-substance abuse campaign.
Ramapo High School will be participating in Project Purple in January.
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