Derek Schell Comes Out, Is First Openly Gay NCAA Division II Basketball Player


In an open letter penned to Outsports, Hillsdale College basketball player Derek Schell, 22, publicly came out yesterday, declaring that his decision to come out has reignited his love for the game he has cherished since childhood. The senior guard's love for basketball has been a constant through his life, often providing solace from an at times isolating world. Throughout his adolescence, Shell writes he was plagued by depression, anxiety, "sleepless nights and undefined sadness." He worked hard to hide those feelings and instead focused on meeting the expectations of his friends and family. However, as Schell matured as an athlete and a person, he grew to believe that satisfying others' expectations did not alleviate any of his own anxieties:

Bball"To be honest, I got good grades. I won a state championship. I dated
pretty girls. And yet something still wasn’t right. By that time, I
figured meeting those expectations would make me feel more comfortable
about who I was and how I fit in. I was sure that my low self-esteem and
insecurities about myself would fade away. I always identified
primarily as an athlete. Both of my parents were prominent Division II
basketball players in Pennsylvania and my sister was a three-sport
athlete who eventually played Division I basketball.  Growing up around
sports and an athletic family (including my extended family), I had an
appreciation of what it meant to live and act like an athlete and I
strived to live up to those standards. At the same time, I developed an
emotional connection to more creative outlets like music, art, and
photography and recognized my attraction to men. Those feelings
conflicted with my understanding of being an athlete and I couldn’t
figure out how to make those two concepts coexist. Who I was becoming
contradicted who I thought I was supposed to become.

Schell, who realized he was gay in Middle School, began to come out to family and friends as a sophomore in College. Just this past month he started coming out to his teammates:

I went to
each of them and told them I treated them as brothers, since I have none
biologically, and that this is just a part of me they finally deserved
to know […]

They all respected me and recognized that nothing
had changed and I was the same teammate and friend that I was before.
Despite attending a conservative college, I have been accepted for who I
am by those on my team and others close to me. Eventually, I was so tired of living my life in fear. I was mentally
exhausted. Instead, I realized that I could be an athlete, be a friend,
be a son, be a brother, be an artist, and be gay as well.

After coming out, Schell has proclaimed his "excitement and passion for basketball is at an all-time high." His "antidote to all of life's problems" has returned to him.

Schell concludes his letter by discussing what he takes away from his struggle to accept his sexuality and what he hopes the impact of his story can be for other young people struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity:

Schell2"Sometimes the darkest times in life are only doorways to the best
moments of your life, the ones you were meant to experience and live to
see. I wanted to do this so that the generations to follow have an
example; so that the younger LGBT youth who live afraid of who they are
becoming can know they have nothing to fear and they are perfect the way
they are. My challenge to you, whoever is reading this, is to be honest
with yourself and how you’re feeling. God doesn’t make mistakes. Don’t
keep saying you’re fine. You can be who you are and still be an athlete.
You can do all the things you want to do and live a beautiful life that
you’ve imagined for yourself. Find your peace of mind knowing you are
giving your best self to the world. Be brave. Be love. But most of all,
be you."

After his letter was posted online, Schell tweeted, "Unbelievably overwhelmed with support, love, and inspiration. Today will be one of the greatest days of my life."

You can read Schell's letter in full HERE.

(Photos via Outsports, Queerty and Twitter)


  1. Gigi says

    Congratulations Derek! Every time a person comes out, Bryan Fischer has a mini-stroke.
    [In your case, yes, probably that kind. Ew.]

  2. Joseph says

    Is this the same Hillsdale College that Rush Limbaugh is constantly plugging- that wraps itself in the flag and has strong christian affiliations?? If so, it takes a special brand of courage to come out in such a homophobic environment.

  3. Francis #1 says

    Yes, Hillsdale is that school, Joseph. Probably the most conservative college in America. Which makes this story go from inspiring and awesome to……WOW.

    He wants to change the world and change things in regards to the relationship between religion and homosexuality and show that one can be gay and religious and in a conservative community, and be accepted. I wish him the best.

  4. Derrick from Philly says

    Courage…Courage…Courage…and more Courage, that’s what you have, Derek Schell. Thanks!

  5. Mike says

    Yea, Derek Schell! (((((Truly awesome man))))) Congrats to you and your true supporters at Hillsdale College. The enthusiasm that you have generated is great! May it continue to grow in range and scope like the ripples in a pond . . .

  6. KT says

    If I recall correctly, the Division III basketball player who came out earlier in the year also went to a conservative college. Its kind of funny how these players at these conservative schools are coming out but yet we haven’t heard of any openly gay players at more liberal and accepting schools.

  7. Quicksilver says

    This poor white boy. Playing a horrible sport at a horrible college in a horrible state. Rats, from his twitty feed, he seems to have some scripture clogging his holiest of holy holes. I feel no empathy for the religious.

  8. jamal49 says

    Congratulations to you, Derek Schell. You are courageous and you will inspire many others to also find the courage to come out. I pray your life henceforth will be as you want it to be.

  9. Dixichuk says

    Wow, only 22. Every step small and large counts. Thank you from an old guy for taking this step which will count to help make my life and countless others better…even the snarky trolls.

  10. RWR says

    I congratulate him on his courage and wish him well on his life journey living openly and more important, honestly with himself.

    Now I have an expectation that there will be those, both inside the college and outside, that will call for him to be expelled.

  11. anon says

    Hillsdale? The college where a former president slept with his daughter-in-law? Let’s hope they can suffer through the shame of this.

  12. says

    Whatever about the rest of the world, this is about you Mr. Schell and about your life and your right to be happy with whosoever you love.
    I hope your life will be happier, more relaxed and that you find that by coming out you have allowed yourself to feel all the love that your family and all of the community has for you.

  13. says

    Ugh! Who cares? Haaate this guy!

    We don’t need stories about these college athletes, especially Mexican-looking ones like this guy. Towleroad needs more stories about the real men, the ones who wear dresses and makeup and call ourselves queer and who consider ourselves part of a common tribe with hermaphrodites.

  14. says

    again, a cowardly racist post anti-mexican nonsense in my name. must be tuesday.

    kudos to this man for doing what many a troll will never do – stand up to be counted.

  15. Derrick from Philly says

    The above is not Little Kiwi. It was written by some tired azz old b.tch with a stinky azz hole.

  16. Derrick from Philly says

    I mean the posting above the posting of the real Little Kiwi.

    @ “….Mexican-looking ones…”

    You’d love to get gang-raped by some “Mexican-looking ones”, but what have you got to offer? A flat pale booty?

    This was supposed to be a happy discussion about Derek Schell’s courage, and we get imposter postings by a wretched b.tch.

  17. DB says

    Derek, Great job and God bless. You’re in all of our prayers and I have no doubt that your brave and eloquent example will help other gay athletes.

  18. RonCharles says

    Congratulations to Derek! He’s shown real courage by coming out at this age and at this college! All the best to him!

  19. jjose712 says

    LittleKiwi: You wrote enough on this site to know when someone is trolling in your name.

    It’s pretty clear than even good news like this can’t be here without our daily dose of trolls

  20. Rick says

    “with a stinky azz hole.”

    Just wondering, is there such a thing as a non-stinky azz hole? LOL.

    Please don’t tell me, Derrick, that you wash and perfume yourself down there obsessively several times a day–I just had lunch and don’t want to barf it up.

    As for the basketball player coming out, that’s nice, but it’s just Division II. To be really impactful at a societal level, it would need to be a well-known player at a top-tier program that gets lots of publicity.

  21. Paolo says


    “The above is not Little Kiwi. It was written by some tired azz old b.tch with a stinky azz hole.”

    What’s the difference?

  22. Rob says

    There are Michigan militias all around there and you could ride a bike from Hillsdale to Timothy McVeigh’s house. There will be some conservative blow back, but it looks like he is ready for it. I salute him for coming out at Hillsdale. Anyone can come out at Oberlin, in fact you’re supposed to. This is different, and good for him.

  23. hot dumb italian mike says

    Very glad for him. Its interesting though that its 2013 and this is still such a big deal. In some cities on the planet they could care less who is or isnt gay; Amsterdam, London, Paris,Prague, etc. That said good 4 him.

  24. Excuse Me! says

    Actually I kind of agree with the “fake” Little Kiwi on this, other than the “Mexican looking part” of course. Oh I know “fake” Kiwi is being snide and crude but there is an element of truth in his snarky comment after all. Don’t get me wrong, it is admirable that this young man came out. But look at him: he is young, masculine and good looking, participates in sports and thereby falls along all the norms “acceptable men” are supposed to be in our society but just happens to be gay. Other than his internal anguish, he was, in all likelihood, under the radar and was able to carry on in public and among his fellow schoolmates with no problem. Once again, the fact that he came out is admirable. But now think of the young men who cannot help but lisp, struggle to keep their “mannerisms” in check and get bullied, beaten and killed in school and in public. Now think of the courage these second group of young man have within themselves to wake up every morning and face the world everyday. Therefore, I ask you, before we all swoon over the coming out of these “brave” athlete types, to give kudos to the brave “sissy” types who have no way of hiding from who they really are. And lets not forget that it is the brave “sissy” types who paved and still are paving the way with their blood, tears and, in too many cases, with their lives the whole gay movement because they do not have the choice to be considered “otherwise”.