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Students Hear From Former NBA Player

By Staff | Dec 14, 2016

Photos Provided A captivated audience of Wetzel County students listen to Chris Herren speak during Project Purple.

Chris Herren, a former NBA player whose career was derailed because of drug abuse, came to Magnolia High School on Dec. 7 to speak to all of the high school students in Wetzel County. Students from Hundred High School, Paden City High School, and Valley High School were all bussed to MHS for this program and each school’s students who are part of various drug free clubs were recognized. The event, known as Project Purple, was supported by the Wetzel County Board of Education and various businesses and sponsors from the surrounding communities and the Community Foundation of the Ohio Valley.

This is the second time Project Purple has presented in Wetzel County as Mr. Herren also presented two years ago, and once again the gymnasium was filled with students who were completely quiet as they listened attentively to Chris tell his story. The program consisted of a 30 minute DVD detailing his life story, an hour presentation, time for questions from the audience, and finally pictures of each school’s drug free clubs members with Chris. There was also a twitter contest in which one student won an autographed book with Mr. Herren as well as a picture. The winning student was senior Jacob Pierce of Paden City High School.

Mr. Herren was a McDonald’s All-American while at Durfee High School in Fall River, MA. He was recruited by virtually every university in America including Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina but chose to remain close to home and family by attending Boston College. His drug use began during his first semester of college and he was eventually dismissed from the university. Mr. Herren later attended and played for Fresno State University before playing in the NBA for the Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics. However, Mr. Herren told the audience that he was not here to talk about his success on a basketball court or to talk with them about their dreams as most speakers do, instead he was there to “talk to you about my nightmare, the way I lived, and my constant struggle in recovery and remaining drug-free.” He also explained how prior to being sober he has been to drug rehabilitation centers several times in his life.

Mr. Herren’s problems with drug addiction have been documented in a book, “Basketball Junkie” and also in the popular ESPN “30 for 30” series. “I truly believe this is making a difference for some,” he told the students when asked why he does this “but I also remember attending assemblies like this when I was in high school and thinking it was a joke. I wish I would have listened. I do this for the students who have more courage. I do this for the students who were stronger than me,” he commented. He also discussed how “you are enough,” “be strong enough to be you on the weekends” and explained how he has learned the hard way in his life “that hurt people are the ones who hurt people.” Other advice he gave to the students was “if you are so tough, so cool, so pretty, and so confident, then why do you need drugs and alcohol?”

“Be stronger than me, be better than I was, remember the values your family and schools have taught you.”

Finally, the event is known as Project Purple because in 2011 there was a group of high school students in a different part of the country who sat alone during the assembly. One of the young ladies rose her hand to explain that she and her friends wear purple to make a statement how they are drug free. Mr. Herren was so impressed with their courage that his presentation is now known as Project Purple.

Each student who is a member of various drug free clubs at all four high schools were given a purple “Project Purple” t-shirt and were seated on the gymnasium floor in front of their peers. The assembly ended with a standing ovation and with several students thanking Mr. Herren for his courage.