SOUTH ORANGE –
Derrick Gordon took a huge gamble last year, while at UMass, when he became the first active college basketball player to admit that he was gay.
Now Gordon has returned to his home state of New Jersey to finish his college career at Seton Hall.
Gordon was asked recently if there were any problems with being gay in a new community?
“None at all,” Gordon said at the team’s recent media day. “It’s all been good. One of the main reasons why I transferred here is because I knew it would be good. Everyone has been supportive. Every time I walk around campus, people have been encouraging me and cheering for me. I’ve been out for a year now. Everyone sort of knows.”
The 6-foot-3 Gordon, now a senior in eligibility, first went to Western Kentucky out of St. Patrick’s in Elizabeth, then spent two years at UMass before arriving in Seton Hall.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Gordon said. “I never thought I’d be here.”
Gordon admitted that Seton Hall contacted him when he was still at St. Patrick’s.
“But I was a little hesitant at the time,” Gordon said. “Back then, I wasn’t looking to be close to home.”
At that time, Gordon was still struggling with his true self. And his twin brother, Darryl, was in prison for attempted murder.
“I went away just so I could be by myself,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t easy. No one wants to go through life like that. No one wants to have anyone they love behind bars. It was tough seeing my brother like that. He stressed to me the importance of being back home, back in New Jersey.”
As for his personal life, Gordon, who is dating the much older actor from CSI Gerald McCullough, said that being gay almost drove him away from the sport he loves.
“I was tired of lying,” Gordon said. “I was going to walk away from basketball. But then I made the decision to come out and got a lot of advice from good people.
One of those people was former New Jersey Nets center Jason Collins, who last year became the first active NBA player to admit that he was, indeed, gay.
“Jason Collins is a good friend and he helped me out a lot,” Gordon said. “He gave me a lot of advice about it. He let me know that I’m not alone.”
Gordon also received advice and encouragement from football player Michael Sam, the first NFL player to admit that he was gay, and CNN anchor and talk show host Anderson Cooper, who is also openly gay.
Gordon was shocked with the way the general public has accepted his openness.
“It’s been surprising at first,” Gordon said. “Honestly, I didn’t know how it would go. But it’s been a big relief. I wish I could have done it years ago. It’s all been positive. When I was in UMass, there were a lot of speculations going around, so then a lot of good people came to me and talked to me.”
Gordon said that there were “a lot of other college players and a lot of NBA players as well who came to help me,” but he wouldn’t dare name names.
Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said that Gordon’s sexual preference is not an issue with his team.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Willard said of Gordon, who has averaged 10 points, two assists and two rebounds per game over the first five games of the season (the Pirates are 4-1). “He’s a great young man. He’s passionate about the way he plays. Ask anyone on the team if there’s an issue with Derrick Gordon and he’d laugh.”
Willard looks at Gordon as being a healthy addition to the backcourt that lost Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina to transfer status.
“He’s a great defender and a tough kid,” Willard said. “He’s going to help us in many ways. He’s going to help us win games. Our guys have welcomed him already. There is no problem there whatsoever.”
The team had too many distractions last year in a season to forget, as the Pirates finished 6-12 in the Big East and 16-15 overall.
That’s why it was puzzling that the Pirates would want to take on a distraction like Gordon’s personal life. But Willard says it’s not a problem at all.
“His personal life is his personal life,” Willard said. “As long as he can help win games, they don’t care. Our guys have welcomed him.”
Gordon appears happy and content.
“I wasn’t expecting any trouble here,” Gordon said. “A lot of people came into my life at the right time. It could have been a bad experience for me, but it wasn’t bad at all. I wasn’t sure how other people would react to it. I have to bring leadership to this team. There are a lot of young guys who need guidance. If I can help one, then it’s all good.”
Seems like Derrick Gordon is moving in the right direction – and that’s good news for the Pirates, as they jump out to an excellent start in the new season.