HAVERHILL — Chris Herren thought his calling was basketball.
The former Durfee High sensation scored 2,000 points and was named Massachusetts Player of the Year three times.
“I loved scoring. I loved winning. I loved hitting the winning shot,” said Herren, who spoke at an assembly at Haverhill High yesterday about the travails of rampant drug abuse.
“But you want to know what the biggest high for me in my life is, even better than a basketball game?” said Herren. “It’s when I get a text like the one I got recently from a girl who said she and her boyfriend were contemplating suicide, and they had the vodka, the pills and the suicide notes with them at the assembly. But after hearing me speak they decided against it and both got help. There is not a better feeling in the world.”
Herren speaks nationwide 20 to 30 times a month on behalf of “The Herren Project,” with a Website stating, “Reaching one person, one family at a time.”
His personal story and quest to help others was recently captured by ESPN’s highly acclaimed “30 for 30” documentaries.
The Fall River native and ex-basketball sensation attended Boston College, but was suspended for testing positive for cocaine. He later transferred to Fresno State and the drug use escalated. He played two years in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics, but heroin and oxycontin ended those dreams.
For seven more years, the story got worse until after one drug and alcohol binge, which came after the birth of his fourth child and after being sober for a month, his then 9-year-old son said “Don’t ever say you’re sorry any more.”
The next day, Aug. 1, 2008, he returned to rehab, and he’s been drug and alcohol free ever since.
Herren says at many of his assemblies, a boy or girl, captivated by his words, publicly pledges to stop drinking and/or doing drugs.