Although they weren’t expecting to win the title this year, the UMass Minutemen also didn’t think they’d get bounced in their opening game of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. During that loss to Tennessee, sophomore guard Derrick Gordon played relatively well and didn’t stand out to anyone as being “weird”. Of course, no one knew at the time he was gay, an announcement he made on Wednesday morning, but that didn’t affect his play on the court or how anyone viewed him during the tournament.
So as the trend for “first” openly gay athletes in every sport continues, Gordon has made his mark as the first in men’s college basketball to come out. However, his journey is still just beginning, even though he’s already come a long way.
Gordon played his freshman year at Western Kentucky and led the Hilltoppers in scoring and into the 2013 NCAA Tournament. But to be closer to his family, he transferred to UMass as a sophomore and started for the Minutemen, scoring 9.4 points per game.
He says he came out to his family, coaches and teammates shortly after his team’s exit from the tournament and that Jason Collins signing a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets in February gave him the confidence to announce his sexuality to the world. He also says that made him more confident he would be accepted in the NBA one day, although he has not declared for the 2014 NBA Draft and it’s unknown at this point whether or not he’ll return to UMass for his junior year.
Regardless, he’ll be a big story in the 2014-15 basketball season as an upperclassmen for a tournament-caliber team or a draft prospect fighting all the battles of Michael Sam, who is looking to become the first openly gay player in the NFL this fall as a rookie. But just like his short journey has seemed long, Gordon knows he’s still got a long ways to go.