An NAIA forward is believed to be the first openly gay player in men’s college basketball.
Jallen Messersmith, a 6-foot-8 athlete for Benedictine College (Atchison, Kan.), announced his sexuality in a story written by Outsports.com on Tuesday. The website said that Messersmith is the first active gay player in men’s college basketball to publicize his sexuality.
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. To them, he's just Jallen.
"He's a very outgoing player and if you need an example of a hustler, it's him," said Benedictine guard Brett Fisher, Messersmith's teammate and best friend. "He's doing the dirty work for the team. He's getting the blocks on defense, he's getting every rebound. We like him on the team."
Messersmith contacted Outsports about telling his coming out story prior to NBA player Jason Collins declaring he is gay ("I think that's awesome," he said about Collins). He appears to be the first gay men's college basketball player to come out while still playing; Villanova's Will Sheridan came out after he graduated. "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."
He admits to being petrified prior to coming out to the team, but a story he tells from this past season shows how readily he has been accepted in the locker room.
"I had gone on a date the night before and Brett [Fisher] came up to me when there were a group of us and he asked, 'So how did your date go last night?' And I was like, 'Well, we just kind of did this and this.' And Brett said, 'What else did you guys end up doing?' And I said, 'Well, we kind of just did stuff and we had fun.' And he was like, 'No, if I'm going to tell you specifics about what I did on my date, you're going to tell me specifics.'
"It told me that I can be open about my personal life and people would listen and give input. It's like nothing different. I'm just one of the guys, who happens to like guys. He eventually got it out of me, though it took some prodding."
"We teased him a little bit about his date the way we tease each other," Fisher added.
In recent months, multiple professional and amateur homosexual athletes have publicly declared their sexuality.
Last month, current NBA center Jason Collins revealed in a Sports Illustrated story that he's gay.
Britney Griner, the No. 1 pick in this year’s WNBA draft, recently addressed her sexuality with Sports Illustrated when she told the publication “being one that's out, it's just being who you are.”
On Sunday, Robbie Rogers competed for the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer. He’s reportedly the first openly gay soccer player to compete in an American league.
Messersmith’s revelation comes at a time when sexuality within sports has become a popular topic.
The junior told Outsports.com that he was initially afraid to tell his teammates that he was gay, but the Benedictine coaching staff, which he told last year, assured him that his experience would not change as a result of his admission.
That was a major contrast to the experiences of his youth.
The forward said he experienced bullying that was so severe his parents had to homeschool him at a young age.
He told Outsports.com that the mistreatment became a chip on his shoulder that fueled his development on the basketball court.
Messersmith averaged 4.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG and 1.89 BPG (fourth overall in NAIA) in 2012-13.