Former drug-addicted NBA guard to speak at Prairie Center event


The Prairie Center, the local non-profit substance-abuse prevention and treatment provider, will host former NBA basketball player Chris Herren at its stakeholder dinner next month.

Herren has struggled through 14 years of his life as a drug addict, losing his chance to continue playing in the NBA, and nearly losing his family and his life as well.

During that time, former Boston Celtic and Denver Nugget had no shortage of moments that could have been his “rock bottom”. Today, Herren tries to make sure no other young athlete follows the same steps, encountering the same mistakes.

Tickets are $75 for one person or $100 per couple.

J. Steven Main, marketing director for the Prairie Center, said the ticket price is helping pay for Herren to speak at the dinner and also on the following day to 2,100 students, teachers and administrators from area high schools at Champaign Central High School.

“We’ve got people who are buying not just one table (at the dinner) but giving us extra money and we’ve made those tables available to some of the high schools so athletic directors and trainers can come and hear Chris speak,” Main said.

Herren is being brought to the community because he wants to reach youth, Main said.

“Here is an example of somebody who was on top of the world, lost everything, and recovered and worked his way back and has set up a foundation to communicate with youth to help others,” he said.

After his senior year at Fresno State, Herren entered the NBA Draft and was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the 2nd round with the 33rd overall pick.

After playing 70 games from 1999-2001, Chris’ NBA career was over after a season ending knee injury. During his NBA career, Herren played 45 games for Denver Nuggets (averaging 3.1 ppg, 2.5 apg) and 25 games for Boston Celtics (3.3 ppg, 2.2 apg).

In total, Herren appeared in 70 NBA games, averaging 3.2 ppg, 2.4 apg in 14.4 minutes per contest. After being released by the Celtics, Herren went on to play professionally for teams in Italy, Poland, Turkey, China, and Iran.

After completing intensive rehabilitation programs, Herren has been alcohol and drug-free since August 1, 2008. In June 2009, Herren launched “Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren”, a basketball player development company to mentor players on and off the court.

Herren has written a book with Providence Journal columnist Bill Reynolds entitled “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir”, documenting his career on and off the court. “Basketball Junkie” was released in May 2011.

In 2011, ESPN aired a documentary, Unguarded, directed by Jonathan Hock, based upon Herren’s basketball career and drug related issues.

On March 20, 2012 it was announced that “Unguarded” had been nominated for two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Sports Documentary and Outstanding Editing.

Today, Herren goes across the U.S., visiting schools, colleges and prisons to tell his story of a drug addict, and how he barely managed to get himself back on track.

Herren also runs basketball facilities, teaching youngsters not only now to play, but how to stay out of drug addiction.

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