Former NBA player Chris Herren visited Island Trees High School on Wednesday to share his story of drug addiction with students.
The former Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics player shared with students how his promising college and professional career was derailed by drug use.
In 1994, Herren was one of the top high school recruits in the country. He accepted a scholarship offer from Boston College.
It was at BC where he was first exposed to cocaine.
"I said, 'Under the circumstances, I'm going to do this once,'" he said. "I had no idea it was going to take me 14 years to stop."
Herren failed three drug tests at BC and was expelled. He later battled an oxycontin addiction while playing for the Boston Celtics. After moving to Europe, he turned to heroin.
His heroin addiction led to arrests in 2004 and 2008. After the latter arrest, he contemplated suicide before a friend of his mother’s convinced him to go into treatment.
After one more slip-up following the birth of his third child, he sobered up. He’s been sober since Aug. 1, 2008.
The students were receptive to Herren’s story and asked him numerous questions after his presentation.
“Some of the questions they asked at the end, and some of the statements they made, you could tell they felt they were in a comfort zone with Chris and with their peers,” said Island Trees principal Nick Grande.
One of the questions the students asked Herren was when his drug use started. He said he started drinking, smoking and using painkillers when he was 14 and 15. Starting at a young age led him to move to ecstasy and cocaine in college.
“The decisions I made in high school prepped me for the decisions I made down the line,” he said.
Grande said that the school wanted to get Herren to the school after seeing his story in an ESPN documentary. He credited parent Greg Vetrone for getting Herren to come to the school and credited the PTA for paying for Herren's appearance.
"Unfortunately, the parents preaching it, and even us preaching it to them, sometimes it falls on deaf ears," he said. "That's why sometimes you need to bring in someone like Chris to make a connection to the kids."
Herren understood this. At the assembly, he told a story about how his coach at BC told him to attend a seminar from an ex-football player on the dangers of drugs before his freshman year started.
He said he only went to avoid a suspension and didn't take it seriously.
"I had the nerve to talk, I had the nerve to talk, I had the nerve to laugh," he said.
He said he learned later how true the statements were after spending 10 years with “dope fiends.” He predicted that some of the students listening would have a similar epiphany later in life.
“There’s kids sitting in this assembly that are going to wake up 10 years from now and say ‘That dude who came into my school wearing a suit, who used to play basketball, that dude was spot on.""