University of Massachusetts (UMass) sophomore star Derrick Gordon recently stepped forward to publically disclose his sexual orientation making him the first openly gay Division I men’s basketball player in the nation.

The 22-year-old guard told  his friends and family just days before deciding to go public. Gordon explained he choose to come out because he “didn’t want to hide anymore.”

“I didn’t want to have to lie or sneak,” he told ESPN. “I’ve been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division I player would come out, and finally I just said, ‘Why not me?'”

Gordon said Brooklyn Nets player Jason Collins’ April 2013 announcement gave him the strength to finally come out.

“That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn’t matter, that the NBA was OK with it,” he said.

A year before coming out to his teammates, Gordon contacted Wade Davis of the You Can Play Project, an organization that works to ensure respect and safety for athletes regardless of their sexual orientation. Davis hooked Gordon up with a network of allies that worked to support him through the process of coming out. The support was instrumental in helping Gordon finally feel safe enough to tell his friends, family, coaches, and teammates about his sexual orientation.

UMass athletic director John McCutcheon issued a statement saying the team is proud of Gordon.

“UMass is proud to have Derrick Gordon as a member of our athletic family and to honor his courage and openness as a gay student-athlete. UMass is committed to creating a welcoming climate where every student-athlete, coach and staff member can be true to themselves as they pursue their athletic, academic and professional goals.”

Shortly after the announcement, one teammate told Gordon, “We got you; you’re one of us,” and he had dinner with several others. After informing his coaches and teammates he was gay, Gordon said he felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

“Before, I usually just kept to myself because I didn’t want to lie or be fake. But not anymore. I feel so good right now. It’s like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

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