AMHERST, Mass. -- Derrick Gordon became the first openly gay Division I men's basketball player to compete in a collegiate game Friday night, starting at shooting guard and helping Massachusetts defeat Siena 95-87 at the Mullins Center.
The 22-year-old, of Plainfield, N.J., scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He made 11 of 12 free throws, including two with 18.2 seconds remaining that helped seal the victory for the Minutemen in their season opener.
"I went into it like a regular game," he said. "I've been here before, but it was good to see the support I had."
In April, the UMass junior acknowledged in an interview with ESPN that he is gay, making him the first Division I men's basketball player to come out publicly.
"I'm just so happy and excited to finally put this out there," Gordon said at the time. "I've lived my life hiding behind somebody who I wasn't. I wasn't really that close to anybody on this team because there was something I had to hide."
Before Friday's game, Gordon said the relationship with his teammates is in a much better place.
"They ask me to play video games with them, eat with them," Gordon said. "We became a lot closer, and it shows on the court. My game has gone to another level. I'm more confident in my game; my shooting has gone up as well. I'm ready to show the whole world that I'm the complete package."
Watching from behind UMass' bench Friday night were Gordon's parents and his twin brother, Darryl, who was recently released from prison after serving a little over five years for attempted murder.
"I held back the tears," Gordon said. "I haven't seen my brother since he's been out. It was good to see my family sitting in that section -- it's something I've been dreaming about."
During the April interview, Gordon said he was happy and excited to finally share his truth.
"And I'm interested in seeing the support I get from different states when I go play in those other arenas," he said. "Hopefully I'll finally see a gay flag in the stands, which I've never seen before. It's going to be interesting. It is."
The UMass student section was filled Friday night, and a few minutes after the start of the game, students began chanting "Der-rick Gor-don" when he went to the free throw line. A separate group of students was holding up a sign featuring Gordon's jersey number -- No. 2 -- beneath, on which was written the Nike slogan "#BETRUE" in rainbow-colored letters.
And in a different corner of the arena, one fan held up a rainbow flag.
Gordon finished last season averaging 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds, helping UMass to a 24-9 record and an appearance in the NCAA tournament.