Derrick Gordon, the first openly gay player in Division I men’s college basketball, has opened up about his transfer from Massachusetts to Seton Hall and the travails he faced as he looked for a new school to finish his college career. He tells USA Today that a number of program refused to take him simply because of his sexuality.
“During the recruiting process, a number of schools didn’t want me because I’m gay,” Gordon told Scott Gleeson. “To me, that’s blatant homophobia. At the end of the day, no coaches will ever admit that they don’t want me because I’m gay and there’s baggage that comes with the attention.
“Honestly, it caught me off-guard. It really hurt. It had me stressing, crying. I was starting to lose hope. I felt like I was being treated like an outsider, like I didn’t belong in the NCAA. I couldn’t believe it because I’m a good player and they were looking at the opposite — something that doesn’t mean anything with my (sexuality). … ‘Nah, not the gay guy.’ ”
Gordon, who averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds as a junior last season for U-Mass., said his decision to leave was purely based on basketball, not because he was at all uncomfortable at the school.
“I wasn’t happy with my role there,” Gordon told Gleeson. “It really had nothing to do with my sexuality or anything like that. Everything was great at UMass. There were no issues. We showered together and I don’t look at my teammates like that. … At the beginning were they uncomfortable? Yeah. But they were real with me, expressed concern and we dealt with it. That made us better friends, better teammates.”
Gordon earned his degree from U-Mass. this spring and will be eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer for Seton Hall, whose proximity to his New Jersey home town played a big role in his decision to transfer there. However, he’s stepping into a program that was roiled by turmoil last season. The Pirates ascended to No. 19 in the Associated Press poll in early January — just the second time they were ranked in the past 14 seasons — before losing 12 of their final 15 games.
Sterling Gibbs, the team’s leader in scoring and assists, announced his intention to transfer to Connecticut after the season. Jaren Sina, who started 23 games before leaving the team midway through the season, is headed for George Washington. So Gordon likely will play a big role next season for a program that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2006.
“I expect it to be a smooth transition, honestly,” Gordon told Gleeson. “Coach (Kevin Willard) has already talked to the players and they said, ‘as long as he helps us win, we’re gonna be his brother.’ It’s about what I can do for the team. …Obviously, me being on the team will be a new experience for everyone involved. This is another new chapter for me.”