Chris Herren, former NBA player and recovering drug addict, speaks at Naperville Central

Chris Herren, a former NBA player and recovering drug addict-turned full-time speaker, visited Central on Oct. 6 to share his story and and message to the student body, and later in the night to the Naperville community.

The presentation was first initiated by three seniors: Maggie O’Brien, Abbey Renfro and Allie Wenzel. After seeing Herren speak at Hinsdale Central High School, the three were compelled to bring him to Central. They proposed the their idea to the administration, and after a few staff members traveled to Indianapolis to see Herren speak, plans began to allocate the funds and time for the presentation.

“It’s disruptive. We have 3000 students,” dean Mike Stock said. “If we’re going to do this, it better be good. We kept asking…and we never got a negative review. We then found the resources necessary…and we decided we we’re going to do this.”

Although the idea was initially proposed in the spring, plans were not formalized until the fall. The organizers of the event asked local hospitals, substance abuse organizations and Central clubs to donate money for the speaker fee. Stock says that there was no issue with getting the fundraising necessary.

Although Herren centered much of his in-school assembly on self esteem issues, the evening event saw him dive more deeply into the details of his past.

“Personally, I think it’s more effective to make it about the kids rather than about me,” Herren said. “It’s easier for me to walk in and tell my own story. It’s harder for me to create something totally different and include all kids. I’ve tried my best to be inclusive.”

Herren made a point of how respectful he believed Central was to him as a speaker. He was “reaffirmed to do his best” after the complete silence and attention from Central’s nearly 3,000 students.

“The motivation is to motivate students to look within, and to identify either what’s holding them back or allowing them to progress forward,” Herren said. “I think the question of ‘why’ is very powerful. At the end of a day, as a 16 or 15-year-old, we should be able to be ourselves on a Friday night.”

For more information about Chris Herren and his non-profit foundation, The Herren Project, go to To contact Herren, send emails to: [email protected]