Derrick Gordon almost quit basketball because he was miserable living with his secret.
Instead, he came out to his teammates and the world, and the experience has been better than he ever envisioned.
In an interview with ESPN, the UMass guard said that he had reached a point where he was either going to come out to his teammates or quit basketball altogether. Despite being a key player for a Division I team that made the NCAA men's basketball tournament, Gordon was miserable before coming out last April.
Gordon said he told his parents, brother and the UMass basketball team days before making his announcement to the public on ESPN. When that happened, Gordon became the first openly gay basketball player in Division I history.
Despite fears of how his announcement might be received, Gordon reports that the support he's received from his family and even strangers has been beyond expectations.
"At the end of the day, I'm happy," Gordon said. "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."
Gordon's teammates have also noticed the guard being more comfortable around the team. For the first time, he's hanging out with the other players regularly.
The experience has been so positive, Gordon said he would have come out sooner had he known what awaited him.
Now, the senior is focused on basketball. Over the summer, Gordon worked on his perimeter shot and is preparing to take on a stronger leadership role with the team. Gordon also worked to develop his physical strength, which will help him drive to the hoop and draw fouls.
Gordon knows negative fan reactions will inevitably find him when they play road games, but he's ready to accept that challenge as it comes. The alternative -- keeping quiet and dropping the sport he loves -- was much worse.