Derrick Gordon had kept his secret for too long.
He couldn’t be himself. He considered giving up the sport he loved. Because he was gay, he distanced himself from teammates.
“I was living life in shame,” the UMass guard said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It took a toll on me.”
Gordon became the first openly gay player in Division I men’s basketball on Wednesday, making the announcement on ESPN and Outsports. Now he hopes to inspire others in similar situations.
“It’s crazy that I’m the first,” he told the AP. “I didn’t know that it would be this long, but if I’m the first, then I’ll start it off.”
Previous announcements by NBA player Jason Collins and Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam made his decision easier. Gordon said he talked with Collins several times before making his announcement.
“There was a time that I didn’t want to play basketball anymore and that’s the worst feeling ever,” he said. “Right now I’m happy. I’m free just to live my life.”
Gordon was the Minutemen’s fourth-leading scorer with 9.4 points per game last season. UMass went 24-9 and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. It lost its first game to Tennessee on March 21.
Nine days later Gordon told his parents, who have been supportive. The sophomore informed UMass coach Derek Kellogg the next day.
“He said it didn’t matter. He’s still going to love me for who I am,” Gordon said. “He said `It just might make you play a lot better next season than you did last season.’ So we joked around a lot.”
Two days later, he told his teammates at an emotional meeting. They, too, supported him.