Jallen Messersmith

Jallen Messersmith is the first openly gay college basketball player

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It’s been one of the biggest topics in sports. NBA center Jason Collins announced he was gay through an essay in a cover story for Sports Illustrated in April. That was followed by Monday night when L.A. Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers stepped on the field to become the first openly gay male to play for a U.S. professional team.

During this past season at an NAIA school in Atchison, Kan., a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward named Jallen Messersmith became what appears to be the first men’s basketball player to come out while his collegiate career was still active, according to a profile by SBNation’s Outsports.

Messersmith attends Benedictine College, a liberal arts Catholic school, where he helped lead the Ravens to an 18-12 record while averaging 4.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game — good for fourth in the NAIA.

At the end of the spring semester last year, he told his parents he was gay, which was received with support. At the beginning of this fall semester, he informed his coach, as well as the two assistant coaches.

“They were there 100 percent for me,” Messersmith told Jim Buzinski. “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.”

Instead of announcing it to his teammates, he let word spread throughout the program.

“Everybody was cool with it and nobody said anything bad about it,” teammate Brett Fisher said. “They know what’s up and he is treated similar to the way we treat every other teammate.”

In the profile, Messersmith said that he grew up Mormon — though he has since left the church — and was bullied so badly growing up that he was home-schooled for two years. When he entered high school the bullying continued, but he used basketball as his escape.

He went on to say that his decision to come out stemmed from the death of a teammate in a car accident his freshman year. The abrupt death made Messersmith think about how quickly things change, and he didn’t want something as big as his sexual orientation hidden.

During a full season playing as an openly gay college basketball player, Messersmith has brought dates to the games, and even goes one more dates than most of his teammates, according to the profile. He is treated no different, even having his teammates, such as Fisher dig for info when he returns home from a date.

“I’m definitely happy and content where I am right now,” Messersmith told Outsports. “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.”

The full story can be read here

Photo credit Benedictine College athletic site

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.