First active, publicly gay college basketball player shares his story
An NAIA player in Kansas wanted to share his story and live his life as he saw fit. This is Jallen Messersmith, the latest publicly gay American athlete.
On the heels of NBA player Jason Collins' announcement earlier this month that he is gay -- making him the first active team athlete in a major American sport to declare such -- we have another basketball player announcing the same. He's not a pro, though. He doesn't play for a major college program. He doesn't even play in Division I.
Outsports.com profiled on Tuesday a man named Jallen Messersmith. The 20-year-old junior-to-be is a forward at NAIA Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. In taking this step, it's believed he becomes the first active male college basketball player in this era to announce he is gay.
Despite coming off the bench last season, Messersmith was the team leader in blocks (by a wide margin), swatting nearly two shots per game.
Here's a sampling from Outsport.com's piece on how, when and why Messersmith opted to go public.
He was raised a Mormon. He was bullied so badly in pre-adolesence that he was home-schooled. ... A 6-8, 215-pound openly gay Mormon basketball player at a Catholic school in Middle America Kansas seems an anomaly. Messersmith, though, fits in perfectly with his teammates and was embraced after he came out last fall, first to his coaches and then over time to his teammates. ...
"When I came out, there was nobody in my sport I could" relate to, Messersmith said about why he agreed to share his story. "I always wanted to put it out there and I had a great experience with it and I wanted to show people it could be fine."...
Messersmith thrived at Benedictine in his freshman year, but was still not out to anyone. A tragedy jolted him into action.
"My freshman year, one of my teammates passed away in a car accident [in December 2011]," he said. "When that happened, I looked at myself and asked 'What am I? What am I doing?' At that point, I had accepted that I was gay. Seeing him die young and in such a sudden manner, I didn't want something that was such a big part of what I am to be hidden. I wanted it to be something I was out about, I was proud of being and that people accepted me more. I did not want that to be hidden for the rest of my life."
Messersmith passed on his personal secret to his parents more than a year ago, then told his coaches and teammates last fall. Leading up to the decision, he went through anxiety and talked to a counselor.
In a Q&A with the school's website, Messersmith lists his hobbies outside of hoops as piano, drawing and reading. He hopes to go on to coach one day. The team went 18-12 last year in part because Messersmith led Benedictine's conference in blocks. This news also comes days after Robbie Rogers joined the LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer, becoming the first openly gay player in that league's history.
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