Derrick Gordon, a sophomore guard for the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team, decided that he had carried his secret too long, so after speaking with his family, coaches and teammates privately, he told ESPN on Wednesday that he is gay.
"I just didn't want to hide anymore, in any way," Gordon told ESPN. "I didn't want to have to lie or sneak. I've been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division I player would come out, and finally I just said, 'Why not me?' "
Gordon posted a message on Twitter shortly after the news broke.
The 22-year-old shooting guard, a native of Plainfield, N.J., said that seeing Jason Collins publicly acknowledge his sexuality in April 2013, becoming the first openly gay NBA player, and the way the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA accepted him was the key moment for him, ESPN reports.
"That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn't matter, that the NBA was OK with it," Gordon said.
According to ESPN, the UMass athletic administration worked closely with Gordon behind the scenes as he prepared to come out to his teammates.
"UMass is proud to have Derrick Gordon as a member of our athletic family and to honor his courage and openness as a gay student-athlete," athletic director John McCutcheon said in a written statement, ESPN reports. "UMass is committed to creating a welcoming climate where every student-athlete, coach and staff member can be true to themselves as they pursue their athletic, academic and professional goals."
Gordon told the sports site that he reached his decision to come out publicly a few days after the team's first-round loss to Tennessee in the NCAA tournament on March 21. "I just had a lot of time to myself, thinking, and I didn't know what I was waiting for," said Gordon, who transferred to UMass after one season at Western Kentucky.
Gordon spoke to UMass coach Derek Kellogg in a phone conversation a few days before coming out to his teammates on April 2. According to ESPN, the coach stood next to his player as he addressed the team.
"From speaking with Derrick, I realized the pressure he had, the weight that was on his shoulders," Kellogg told ESPN. "You can already see in his demeanor that he is so much happier. I actually think this is something that brings our team closer together and helps Derrick play more freely."
According to Gordon, after he made his announcement, one of his teammates immediately spoke up and said, "We got you; you're one of us." Gordon and four teammates went to dinner that night.
"Before, I usually just kept to myself because I didn't want to lie or be fake," Gordon told ESPN. "But not anymore. I feel so good right now. It's like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders."
Read more at ESPN.