NEWTON, Mass. — His uniform is the first clue.
It says "Herren Jr." on the back, just in case anyone forgot the connection.
It's a white home jersey, and he is wearing it in this game at Boston College, this school where his father once flamed out in a very public way before resurrecting his college career at Fresno State, where he played for Jerry Tarkanian, the savior of many lost basketball souls, before playing two years in the NBA and then overseas for a while.
But Chris Herren Jr. embraces his basketball legacy.
It's a complicated one, certainly, since his father is one of the few people on the planet who has had an ESPN documentary on his life, a Fall River kid who played for the Boston Celtics and the Denver Nuggets in the NBA, and now travels the country talking about the dangers of drug abuse and addiction. This man who has had an amazing basketball journey, virtually around the world, including a stint in Iran, and has now found an amazing second act as a big-time motivational speaker.
This is the baggage Chris Herren Jr. carries with him, baggage he has embraced.
His Boston College uniform tells us that.
For it couldn't always have been easy to be Chris Herren's kid and have your own basketball dreams. Sports are full of horror stories of kids who got psychologically buried under the weight of their father's athletic success in high school, never mind anything beyond that.
But not Chris Herren Jr.
"I was just a little kid when my father was in rehab in New York, and we would go down and visit him," he said. "I don't remember a lot of details. It was a hard time. But I knew my mom was an angel."
And it was only a matter of time before fate came into the locker room, only a matter of time before he started to put himself out in the local basketball world. A definition of courage? Try being a young basketball player around here named Chris Herren.
I remember seeing a middle school game in Barrington a few years ago and everyone seemed to want to know which Portsmouth player was Chris Herren's kid. A normal way to grow up? You tell me. But even as a young kid he always seemed well grounded, no insignificant thing, never mind one growing up in the large shadow of a former professional basketball player who was looking for a second act.
"I've always tried to make my own decisions," said Chris Herren Jr.
For two years he drove back and forth from Portsmouth to Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass., because he thought Tabor would better prepare him for college, after two years at Portsmouth High School. After Tabor, he decided on Boston College — no matter that his father once flamed out there, along with his uncle Michael — basically because he believed in BC assistant coach Scott Spinelli, who believed in him.
So there he was on Tuesday night in the Conte Forum on the BC campus. There he was coming off the bench and quickly drilling 3-point shots in succession against Providence, showing no hesitation, no fear of the moment.
Good for him.
In his own way he has no doubt paid his dues. It's not easy to be Chris Herren Jr. in the basketball world. The name is always going to bring attention. He's always going to be compared to his father as a basketball player, however unfair that might be. Then again, he's already well used to it.
"I've got a lot of things I want to achieve," said Chris Herren Jr. "I want to go as far as I can go in basketball."
It was said with no attitude, simply a statement of fact.
And why Boston College, this place where both his father and his uncle both self-destructed at?
He pondered the question for a beat or two, and when he spoke again his voice seemed full of resolve.
"That's part of my life, but it's not my story," said Chris Herren Jr. "My story starts now."