May 28, 2013, 4:46 PM EDT
It’s been one of the biggest topics in sports. NBA center Jason Collins announced he was gay through an essay in a cover story for Sports Illustrated in April. That was followed by Monday night when L.A. Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers stepped on the field to become the first openly gay male to play for a U.S. professional team.
During this past season at an NAIA school in Atchison, Kan., a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward named Jallen Messersmith became what appears to be the first men’s basketball player to come out while his collegiate career was still active, according to a profile by SBNation’s Outsports.
Messersmith attends Benedictine College, a liberal arts Catholic school, where he helped lead the Ravens to an 18-12 record while averaging 4.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game — good for fourth in the NAIA.
At the end of the spring semester last year, he told his parents he was gay, which was received with support. At the beginning of this fall semester, he informed his coach, as well as the two assistant coaches.
“They were there 100 percent for me,” Messersmith told Jim Buzinski. “They said it would not make any difference in the way the team was run. And they wanted to make sure it wouldn’t change my experience at the school. That was awesome. After that, I felt like I could do anything.”
Instead of announcing it to his teammates, he let word spread throughout the program.
“Everybody was cool with it and nobody said anything bad about it,” teammate Brett Fisher said. “They know what’s up and he is treated similar to the way we treat every other teammate.”
In the profile, Messersmith said that he grew up Mormon — though he has since left the church — and was bullied so badly growing up that he was home-schooled for two years. When he entered high school the bullying continued, but he used basketball as his escape.
He went on to say that his decision to come out stemmed from the death of a teammate in a car accident his freshman year. The abrupt death made Messersmith think about how quickly things change, and he didn’t want something as big as his sexual orientation hidden.
During a full season playing as an openly gay college basketball player, Messersmith has brought dates to the games, and even goes one more dates than most of his teammates, according to the profile. He is treated no different, even having his teammates, such as Fisher dig for info when he returns home from a date.
“I’m definitely happy and content where I am right now,” Messersmith told Outsports. “It’s awesome that I have the team support I do. It’s awesome that no one has said anything [negative] and I haven’t had anything change. I just feel really comfortable and it’s really nice.”
The full story can be read here
Photo credit Benedictine College athletic site
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