Jallen Messersmith is a 20-year-old from Blue Springs, Mo., who blocked 53 shots for the Benedictine men’s basketball team last season.
And according to a national website that covers gay sports issues, Messersmith is believed to be the first openly gay active men’s college basketball player.
He shared his story with the website, Outsports.com, which published a feature on Messersmith on Tuesday.
Messersmith’s sexual orientation wasn’t a secret to his coaches or teammates before the story was released. He says he told his teammates, including his best friend Brett Fisher, who played at Blue Valley Northwest, in the fall. All were supportive.
Messersmith also contacted Outsports with his story before NBA player Jason Collins announced that he is gay.
“I always wanted to put it out there,” Messersmith told Outsports, “… I wanted to show people it could be fine.
“… I’m just one of the guys, who happens to like guys.”
Benedictine is in Atchison, and has an undergraduate enrollment of about 2,000. It is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, which considers homosexual acts a sin but also says gays “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
School president Steve Minnis said he doesn’t expect anything to change on campus, where he says Messersmith is well-liked.
“I’ve had conversations with the coaches to make sure he was being treated with respect and sensitivity,” Minnis said. “Our position always has been with Jallen is we love him as one of God’s children, and we want to make sure everything is positive for him.”
On the floor, it couldn’t have been more positive. Messersmith, a 6-foot-7 forward whose first name is a combination of his middle name, Allen, and that of former Michigan star Jalen Rose, finished his sophomore season averaging 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds. He finished third in NAIA Division I with 1.9 blocks per game.
“We are a Catholic college, and we take our mission and values seriously,” Minnis said. “Our duty as Catholics, straight from the church, is to treat everybody with respect and accept them for who they are.”