Jallen Messersmith became the first U.S. men's college basketball player to come out as gay while still playing. The junior forward at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas was raised Mormon, overcame bullying, and is now openly gay at his Catholic college.
Messersmith told Outsports.com that he wanted to help other gay athletes feel comfortable coming out if that's what they want.
Messersmith admits that he was scared, but said he told his coach last summer and his teammates just before the season started, and he says none of them were bothered by it. He credits his coach, officials and teammates with supporting him.
"He's a very outgoing player, and if you need an example of a hustler, it's him," said Messersmith's best friend and Benedictine guard Brett Fisher. "We like him on the team."
Benedictine Athletic Director Charlie Gartenmayer and men's basketball Coach Ryan Moody have not commented, pointing instead to a statement the school released Wednesday.
"We support Jallen as a Benedictine College student and as a member of the Raven basketball team. Obviously, it would be inappropriate for us to discuss the private lives of students. As an institution we treat all students with respect and sensitivity."
Messersmith says he's no longer part of the Mormon church he was raised in. "My mom had told me all growing up that if for some reason somebody was gay, they would support them," Mesersmith said. "But going to church, all I heard was 'this is bad, this is bad, this is bad.'"
The Ravens went 18-12 before losing in the quarterfinals of the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament, and despite playing in just half of the team's minutes, Messersmith led the team with 53 blocked shots, more than the next three players combined.
"It's awesome that I have the team support I do," Messersmith said. "It's awesome that no one has said anything [negative] and I haven't had anything change. I just feel really comfortable and it's really nice."