This morning, news broke that former WKU standout, and self-proclaimed “Mr. Hilltopper,” Derrick Gordon, had come out of the closet as a gay male. Not only that, but his announcement places him in NCAA history, as he is the first active openly-gay athlete in D1 Basketball.
Gordon, now a member of the Massachusetts Minutemen, came out first to his parents and Head Coach Derek Kellog, and came out to his Minutemen teammates on April 2nd, a couple of weeks after UMass was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament. (The timeline of exact events can be read here, in a very well written and detailed piece by ESPNW.)
Gordon came to WKU from New Jersey, and was a vital role to the 2011 basketball team as a freshman, playing in all 35 games and averaging 11.8 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game, and shot 69% from the free throw line. Gordon also started (along side T.J. Price, George Fant, Teeng Akol and Jamal Crook – in hindsight, what a lineup) in both of WKU’s tournament games that year, the historic comeback win against Mississippi Valley State and the loss to Kentucky.
Following the season, Gordon announced that he was transferring from the Hill, for reasons that still are a bit blurry, but the best we understood it as, was he wanted to be closer to his New Jersey home.
Per NCAA rules, Gordon had to sit out last season, but came back this year to play a pivotal role with his new UMass team – playing in 33 games, and averaging 9.4 points along with 3.5 rebounds.
The news this morning certainly sent shock waves and surprised many people. And, even though Derrick is no longer a Hilltopper, he is still an important member to a team that did great things, and more or less fits the phrase “once a Topper, always a Topper,” (if only in spirit).
When the news broke, my first thought was “maybe that‘s why he transferred,” but by this time, we may never know. It is a great day for Gordon, however, and a great day for college basketball. While, yes, one day we will live in a world where someone making this news would be no different than saying one has to go to the grocery store, we aren’t there yet. And it took incredible courage from Gordon to announce this.
We here at Wave The Red Towel would like to extend our congratulations and our best wishes to Derrick as he finishes his UMass career, and we certainly miss him here on the Hill.
What do you think about the announcement? Should it be a big deal? Do you still even care about Mr. Gordon even though he is no longer a Hilltopper?
Stand up and cheers.