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“A couple came up and told me if I have any issues with anybody, they’ve got my back,” he said.

The 20-year-old from Blue Springs, Mo., will be a junior for the Ravens next season. He appeared in 28 games this past season, starting the last eight, and averaged 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds. He blocked 53 shots, and his average of 1.89 a game ranked third in NAIA Division I.

Messersmith said he comes from a basketball family. He also plays piano and likes to draw in addition to playing video games and listening to music. He’s an accounting major who is involved in student government and serves as manager for the Benedictine women’s lacrosse club team.

Messersmith said he’s received more than 100 texts, emails and messages through social networks since Tuesday, one from as far away as South Africa. He said he couldn’t imagine what the public’s reaction would be if he played in a major-college basketball program.

“For sure it would be a bigger story, and this seems pretty big,” he said.

Kerri Kos, a fellow Benedictine student and Messersmith’s best friend, said she was scared for him when he told her he wanted to come out to the basketball team.

“He doesn’t want his teammates to live in the dark about it,” she said. “The basketball team is incredibly close. To be part of the team, he needed to be completely honest about it. He took a huge leap of faith, and people responded positively. I’m so happy about it because it shows progress.”