US: First college men’s basketball player to come out: ‘You’ve got to be comfortable with who you are’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Following the lead of other professional athletes to come out and continue playing in a US professional team sport, a Kansas college men’s basketball player, appears to have become the first to come out during a college career, and said: “If you are comfortable with yourself, you can do anything.”

Outsports reports that Jallen Messersmith is the first openly gay men’s basketball player to come out during an active collegiate career.

Messersmith, who is a 6 foor 7 forward, attends Benedictine College, a liberal arts Catholic school, where he plays for the Ravens basketball team.

He did not come out in any kind of official announcement, but allowed the word to spread, and said he was happy that no teammate or classmate had said anything negative.

“I’m definitely happy and content where I am right now,” Messersmith said. “It’s awesome that I have the team support I do. 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.”

Speaking of coming out to his parents at the beginning of spring semester, and the end of 2012, and later told his coach, and his assistants.

“They were there 100 percent for me,” Messersmith told Outsports “They said it would not make any difference in the way the team was run. And they wanted to make sure it wouldn’t change my experience at the school. That was awesome. After that, I felt like I could do anything.”

Messesmith was raised a Mormon, although he has now left the church, and was badly bullied growing up. He said his decision to come out came from the death of a teammate in a car accident, and said he did not want his sexual orientation to be hidden, because of how fast things can change.

Speaking of being bullied, he said: “The people making fun of me pushed me into basketball further and made me want to be the best at basketball and get somewhere with myself… After my sophomore year, I didn’t care what people thought. I grew stronger because of it and it rolls off my back now.”

When asked to address other athletes wanting to come out, he said: “You’ve just got to be comfortable with yourself.”

“I wasn’t very comfortable with myself for a long time and then when I was, if you put off the confidence and you are 100% comfortable when you tell someone, they will support you. They can’t, as much as they can try, drag you down. It’s all about you. It’s what you think. If you are comfortable with yourself, you can do anything.”

Teammate Brett Fisher, said nobody on the team had a problem with Messersmith coming out. He said: “Everybody was cool with it and nobody said anything bad about it… They know what’s up and he is treated similar to the way we treat every other teammate.”

This week, having returned to professional sport after a short retirement, openly gay player Robbie Rogers is with US team LA Galaxy, coming back to excellent support and a win in his debut game.

Rogers would no longer be the only openly gay Major League player, since in April NBA star Jason Collins confirmed he is gay in an article to Sports Illustrated magazine. He said: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

New WNBA draft Brittney Griner also came out as gay last month, and offered advice for young women looking up to her to “just be who you are”, and not worry about what other people might be thinking.