Unguarded

Chris Herren was a high school and college basketball star who looked a nailed-on certainty for a successful career in the NBA until drugs and alcohol addiction suddenly derailed his progress. However, with the help of family, friends and the game that he still loves, he has found redemption at last. This is his story. BT Sport 2, Tues, March 13th 23.00

Herren was a typical all-American kid. Born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, he was the third generation of his family to play basketball for the local high school, Durfee High, after his father and grandfather. His brother and three uncles were also prominent figures in the game locally. But Chris was better than any of them and looked set for far greater things beyond the realms of a feature or two in the town paper and the small-time celebrity that came with it.

After finishing high school with a total of 2,073 points, the most points ever scored by an individual at the school, Herren enrolled at Boston College in 1994 after turning down offers from the likes of the University of Kentucky and Duke University. He had been named ‘Player of the Year’ in his senior year and also made the All-America Team. A new book on the history of basketball at Durfee High entitled ‘Fall River Dreams’ cast him as its central figure. It looked like the beginning of a great career in the game.


Herren enjoyed a great start to his tenure at Boston College, scoring 14 points in 21 minutes before breaking his wrist. The injury ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Remarkably, he had already failed a drugs test for marijuana and cocaine use before entering the college and failed a subsequent test less than three months later which led to his expulsion.

NBA

He then transferred to Fresno State where, after serving a year-long ban for drugs violations, he made his debut in his sophomore year. Despite later failing another drugs test which saw him spend 28 days in rehab, Herren went on to play in 86 games at Fresno State where he averaged 15.1 points and 5.1 assists per game. It was enough to secure some interest in the NBA Draft ahead of the 1999-2000 season where he was signed by the Denver Nuggets.


After a season in Denver where he struggled to make an impact, he transferred to local team Boston Celtics. However, after a good start, it was the same story and he was released by the Celtics at the end of the 2000-01 campaign. It was clear that his issues with drugs and alcohol had taken their toll. After that Herren spent five years playing around the world in countries such as Poland, Turkey and China, Germany and even Iran. Such was his prodigious talent that he once scored 63 points in a senior CBA league game for the Beijing Ducks. He retired in 2006.

Descent

When one door closes another often opens, or so the saying goes, but it wasn’t that straightforward for Herren. He returned home to Massachusetts where he continued his downward spiral for several years before finally hitting rock bottom. In one incident he overdosed on crystal meth and crashed his car into an electricity pole. When paramedics revived him they found that he had been dead for 30 seconds. It proved to be a turning point.


Since then Herren has turned his life around and has been drug-free for almost a decade. He now works as a motivational speaker travelling all over the US talking to students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. He also runs ’Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren’, a company which mentors basketball players both on and off the court. Another initiative, ‘The Herren Project’ (THP) was launched in 2011 to increase awareness of the dangers of substance abuse and aid those in recovery to continue to lead a sober life.

Directed by eight-time Emmy winner Jonathan Hock, Unguarded provides a no-frills look at Herren’s life and career from Fall River to the NBA and back again. We hear from friends, family, fellow players and even former coaches who witnessed his long journey from darkness to light and ultimate redemption.

Well worth a watch…..



Images: Getty

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