The tweets on Longmont High’s Justinian Jessup piled up this summer. So much so, it’s almost a surprise he was never a trending topic.
While participating in club basketball for the Colorado Titans, there was a lot of buzz about the outstanding junior, a 6-foot-4 drink of water with a wingspan that seemingly goes from sideline to sideline.
When Jeff Kloster got the opportunity to coach him during the high school summer camp season, too, he saw an already gifted basketball player continue to improve.
“We had him all of June for the high school summer, and he made his mark just as much. He opened the eyes of many coaches, that’s for sure,” said Kloster, Longmont’s head coach of 21 years.
Jessup admitted he had a good time during the club season, and he’s learned a few things about himself along the way.
“It was a lot of fun. We won a national tournament here in Denver and went to tournaments in Milwaukee, California and Vegas and did well in those, too,” said Jessup, who averaged 13.6 points, 2.6 assists and 2.6 steals a game for the Trojans in 2013-14. “All of those, we made the quarterfinals. It was a just a fun club season.
“For me, I really think I learned to slow myself down a little more and just took more time to see what’s going on on offense. Reading what the defense is doing and reacting to that. Coming off down screens and in transition, I think that developed.”
Having been in that upper-echelon of talent since middle school, Jessup proved right away that he was going to be a force for the Trojans. He averaged 8.6 points a game as a freshman, and last year combined with Austin Kemp to form a duo that few could contain.
Jessup shot an eye-popping 53 percent from the floor and finished the season with one of his best scoring games, going 9 for 14 for 23 points in a playoff loss against Cheyenne Mountain. From 3-point land, Jessup shot a respectable 39 percent overall.
As if Kemp and Jessup weren’t enough of a stop-one-try-and-deal-with-the-other duo, the combination of Jessup and fellow Titan/LHS junior Kevin Mitchell could be even more fun to watch. The pair have been teammates for a long time, and both couldn’t say enough about each other and the potential for a big season.
“I think both of us are going to take a leadership role and lead by example,” Jessup said. “We work well together and have been teammates for a while. I’m excited to work with him.”
“The ceiling’s so high for us, and as long as we focus on our defensive principles, we will do good things,” Mitchell said. “Justinian is always at his best. We will being doing everything we can to get him the ball at key times.”
Jessup has been garnering attention from Division I programs, and the list grows daily and includes Tulsa, Pepperdine, Denver, Air Force, Colorado, Montana and Grand Canyon University.
While life decisions loom, Jessup is completely poised to put the Trojans first. Kloster also firmly believes Jessup’s win-first attitude is going to come through for his team.
“I’m just going to try and stay within myself and focus on winning games,” Jessup said. “That’s what’s most important to me right now.”
“You want your best player to be your hardest worker and your most committed player, and Justinian is exactly that,” Kloster said, adding Jessup will be more on the attack to the hoop this year. “He’s committed to improving his craft. He’s got a total commitment to our program. He’s going to live his high school experience while he’s here, and he’s excited for the team.”
Don’t be surprised if the Trojans start slowly. The vast majority of Longmont’s cast played in the 4A state championship football game on Saturday, and without even bouncing the basketball around they could be in for some long and hard practice sessions before the meat of the roundball campaign kicks in.
Soon enough, though, the Trojans — and Jessup in particular — will likely be trending alongside the Colorado basketball elite.
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