Chris Herren
Chris Herren
MARINETTE - A former high school basketball star turned drug addict will deliver his powerful message again in this area. Chris Herren, a prep phenom in Fall River, Mass. and then a college star, will speak Friday and Saturday at Marinette High School.

Herren will talk with high school students from about 1:30 to 3 p.m. Friday. He'll speak to the public from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday in the P.F. Neverman Gymnasium. The Saturday event is free and open to the public.

In December, Herren spoke to Menominee High School students and also conducted a public session. That engagement attracted about 150 people.

Organizers are hoping for a larger turnout for this session, which again is planned by Up North Hoops. Winsert Inc. of Marinette paid the speaking fee for Herren's last visit and the industry is paying for this appearance as well. Others helping to fund various aspect of Herren's visit - such as travel costs, meals, lodging - include Wisconsin Public Service, M&M Plaza, ACE Hardware, R.W. Fernstrum, Bay Area Medical Center and Northreach.

Brandon Gauthier, president of Up North Hoops, believes having Herren speak again in this area is great for this community, which like many communities is trying to combat a drug problem, including heroin.

"I think this is a great follow-up to his last visit," Gauthier said. "I think he intrigued the public (in December)."

Marinette County Administrator Ellen Sorensen is helping to publicize the event. She believes every aspect of the community must be involved to stop the drug problem.

Following his talk to MHS students, Herren will meet with members of a Heroin Subcommittee, which is an offshoot of the county's Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. That group includes Sorensen, Sheriff Jerry Sauve, Health and Human Services Director Robin Elsner, Jail Administrator Bob Majewski, Circuit Judge Jim Morrison, District Attorney Allen Brey and Bobbi Christopherson from probation and parole.

Sorensen said the closed meeting will be an opportunity to glean valuable information from Herren, who has become a sought-after-speaker nationwide.

"We're hoping to find out what programs work nationally," Sorensen said. "And which of those programs could be applicable here."

Herren, a 6-foot-2 guard, scored over 2,000 points in his prep career and was recruited nationally after being named to the McDonald's All-American team in 1994. He chose nearby Boston College only to break his wrist in his first collegiate game.

After failing several drug tests, Herren continued his college career at Fresno State, where he led the nation in assists and steals.

Herren was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft in 1999 by the Denver Nuggets. He played for Denver one year and was traded to Boston. He suffered a season-ending injury and was released. He then played basketball overseas in five countries, including Italy, Poland, Turkey, China and Iran.

Throughout his basketball career, Herren struggled with his drug problem. His story was told in an ESPN Emmy-winning documentary titled "Unguarded." Herren also told his story in his memoir, "Basketball Junkie."

Herren has been alcohol and drug free since Aug. 1, 2008, and has refocused his life to put his sobriety and family above all else.

In addition to his talks, Herren founded The Herren Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing assistance to families affected by addiction, and launched Project Purple, a national anti-substance abuse encouraging people of all ages to stand up to drugs and alcohol.