Derrick Gordon couldn't be happier

ByJeff Goodman ESPN logo
Thursday, October 9, 2014

AMHERST, Mass. -- UMass guard Derrick Gordon told ESPN that he would have quit basketball if he did not come out publicly as gay last April.

The 6-foot-2 junior, who averaged 9.4 points last season for a UMass team that lost to Tennessee in the NCAA tournament, said he was beyond miserable and was on the verge of quitting the sport.

"I was coming out or giving up basketball," Gordon told ESPN on Wednesday. "It was breaking me down."

Gordon said he had lived with the secret since when he entered college at Western Kentucky. He transferred to UMass after his freshman season and rarely -- if ever -- hung around his teammates.

"My secret," Gordon said in explaining why he was a loner in college. "I didn't want to be put in a situation where they found out."

Gordon told his parents, brother and teammates just days before making a public announcement to ESPN that he was set to become the first active Division I men's basketball player to be openly gay. Gordon said the support he's received from everyone has been overwhelming, and that his life has completely changed, although the experience wasn't quite so easy for his twin brother, Darryl.

"I told him, and he didn't believe it at first," Gordon said. "He thought I was joking, then he started to blame himself. It hurt at first, but I gave him time. Now he's very supportive."

Gordon said the coaching staff and his teammates have also helped make it easier for him.

"It's been a blessing," Gordon said. "They could have all handled it differently, but my teammates have been great. I'm so much happier than I was."

"You can tell he's more comfortable with us," UMass senior big man Cady Lalanne said. "His whole mentality is different now. He'll come and hang out with us now. I'm so happy for him."

Gordon has become a spokesman of sorts and has embraced the opportunity. He attended several events, including the GLAAD awards in New York, since making the announcement in April. He also said he's received numerous emails from student-athletes from around the country who are contemplating telling their families, friends and teammates about their sexual orientation.

"It's been weird," Gordon said. "I wasn't expecting to be in this situation. I'm 22 and didn't want to be 30 or 40 before I was true to myself. Anyone can play sports regardless of their sexuality. If I would have known, I would have come out sooner."

Gordon said his goal this season with the Minutemen is to take on more of a leadership role and also prove he can add a consistent perimeter shot on the court in addition to his strength, which is getting to the basket and finishing through contact.

He's well-aware there could be fans who heckle him on road trips.

"I'm still getting prepared for it," Gordon said. "I'm not worried because at the end of the day, I'm happy. Everyone knows I'm gay. You can sit up there and call me whatever you want. It's not going to affect me. I'm happy.

"It wasn't that long ago that I was deep in the pit," he added. "But now I'm standing tall. My whole life has changed, and I couldn't be any happier."

Related Video