Jallen Messersmith, a 6-foot-7 basketball player at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., has come out, and is believed to be the first openly gay active college basketball player in the country.
Messersmith, 20, announced Wednesday that he revealed his sexuality to his coach last summer and to his teammates before the start of the season. The public announcement comes just a month after NBA veteran Jason Collins came out on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a groundbreaking first-person essay
, making him the first openly gay active athlete in a major professional sport.
"The big thing for me, why I wanted to [come out], before the whole Jason Collins thing, is there weren't a lot of basketball-related stories like this
," Messersmith told ESPN. "When I started coming out, I didn't have anyone to look to for advice or to see how their story went. People can look to see what happened to me — and there are positive things going on."
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Though Messersmith technically came out to friends and teammates before Collins, he said the NBA player's experience was still helpful.
"It's awesome to have another person in my sport to come out [nationally] beforehand," Messersmith said.
Benedictine College, a small, 2,000-student school, released a statement Wednesday.
"We support Jallen as a Benedictine College student and as a member of the Raven basketball team," the school said. "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."
Brett Fisher, a starting guard for Benedictine and one of Messersmith's best friends on the team, said Messersmith came out to teammates individually.
"I think it takes a lot of courage to come out to everyone you know," Fisher told ESPN. "He sort of feels like he had a thousand pounds lifted from his shoulders when he came out."
Messersmith received an outpouring of support on Twitter.
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