LONGMONT — For those who watched Justinian Jessup play prep basketball at Longmont High School, it seemed inevitable that he would go on to have a successful collegiate basketball career.
Those people weren't wrong to have high expectations for one of the best basketball recruits to come out of Colorado in recent years.
What has been surprising, however, is just how quickly everything - adjusting his mind and body to the college game, and carving out playing time for himself - seemed to line up for Jessup to experience incredible success almost immediately at Division-I Boise State University. But then again, plenty of people closer to Jessup who knew his work ethic and desire to win at all costs aren't really surprised at all.
And sometimes it's just about finding the right fit, which Jessup certainly has.
"I just try to work hard and do my job," Jessup said. "I don't worry about expectations. It's a credit to my teammates and my coaches because they put me in good situations to succeed so it's a tribute to them for sure."
Those situations have most frequently presented themselves beyond the 3-point line, where Jessup has been a revelation for the Broncos through the first year and a half of his college career. Now that he's back in Colorado for the holiday break, the lefty sophomore sharpshooter has plenty to reflect upon after achieving so much already.
As a freshman last season, Jessup started 31 of the Broncos' 32 games and became just the fourth Broncos freshman to start the season opener in the past 12 years. His 31 starts currently stand as the most by any freshman in the history of Boise State men's basketball. Solidifying his role as a 3-point shooting threat, the 50 made 3-pointers he totaled were the second most by a Broncos freshman in school history.
Having bulked up to around 205 pounds as a sophomore , the 6-foot-6 guard is second on the team averaging 15.2 points a game through the Broncos' first 12 games. Jessup also is shooting 51.8 percent from 3-point range and averaging 5.5 rebounds a game. Joining a team that features Chandler Hutchison and includes Lexus Williams, Zach Haney Alex Hobbs and Chris Sengfelder, Jessup and the 10-2 Broncos may also be looking at an even loftier career achievement on the horizon - earning a spot in the DI Men's Basketball Championship Tournament in March.
"We have the pieces and the system to do it," Jessup said. "We have a great team and we have high expectations this year. I think that's something that everybody dreams about as a little kid, high school kid, whatever, going to the big dance. But we have a long way to go and we've just got to stay focused on making it happen."
Whatever heights he reaches with the Broncos, Jessup maintains a loyal following back home in Colorado, where he was named The Denver Post Class 4A boys basketball player of the year as a junior and was twice named BoCoPreps.com boys basketball player of the year. Among the school record-holders in both points and steals at Longmont High, Jessup averaged 17.0 points and led the Trojans to the state championship game as a junior, and led the Trojans to the Final Four as a senior while averaging 18.3 points.
When the Broncos hosted Grand Canyon University on Dec. 13, several coaches from the local Colorado Titans club basketball organization who coached Jessup made the trip out to watch him play. The Broncos won in double overtime and Jessup scored 18 points. A week later, Jessup is back in Colorado on break but still can't manage to stay out of the gym.
"It's really, really hard to explain," Titans coach Rick Jimenez said. "For me, to see our guys go on to bigger and better things, whether they play NAIA, DI, DII, DIII, that doesn't matter as much. But to see the guys come back and come into the gym and help the younger guys. Like last spring break, he comes back and basically goes from the airport to the gym and he's in the gym with our Titans guys. That's what we love to see most, guys who give back."
Since his holiday break began, Jessup has spent several hours a day working out and working on his game. The next couple of times he is back in Colorado, he will be in a Boise State Broncos uniform to play Air Force on Jan. 27 and Colorado State on Feb. 21.