BOISE — Justinian Jessup leaves Boise State as one of the most decorated players in program history. He holds school and league records and ranks in the top 10 in several program career lists.
His four years with the Broncos ended with one glaring omission.
“I just wish we would have made the NCAA Tournament,” Jessup said. “That’s the only big bummer.”
The outgoing senior’s Boise State career ended with an 81-68 loss to San Diego State in the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament on March 6. The Broncos were hopeful of landing a bid to the NIT, but the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jessup reflected on his Boise State career and looked ahead to his future during a phone interview with the Idaho Press.
The left-handed Jessup finished his career ranked. No. 1 in program history for 3-pointers with 325, No. 2 with 121 games started, No. 5 with 129 games played, No. 7 with 154 steals, No. 8 with 1,583 points and No. 8 with 3-point percentage of 40.7.
He set single-season school records as a senior with 98 made 3-pointers and by going 70 of 73 from the free-throw line for a mark of 95.9%. His 325 made 3-pointers also set a new Mountain West record.
If Boise State ever decided to hang jerseys from the rafters, Jessup would seemingly be one of the top contenders. But his career, according to him, will always feel incomplete.
“I’d trade all those accomplishments just to have made the NCAA Tournament or won the Mountain West,” Jessup said. “I’d trade all those records in a heartbeat for that. It’s cool, but it’s not really what I wanted to be remembered for. I wish we would have won more.”
The Broncos made two NIT appearances during his time — including winning the first road postseason game in program history when they upset Utah in 2017 — and won at least 20 games in three of his four seasons. Boise State went 76-53 during his career and Jessup played in all 129 games.
Maybe the only silver lining with the NCAA Tournament and NIT being canceled was that Jessup held off Utah State’s Sam Merrill for the Mountain West 3-point record. Both surpassed BYU Jimmer Fredette’s record during the season, and Merrill was just six behind Jessup at 319 when the season was cut short early. Utah State was scheduled to play at least one more game in the Big Dance.
“I guess it’s a little sigh of relief there,” Jessup said. “I think we would have gotten a bid to the NIT so I could have kept it up, but it’s a sigh of relief. I remember later in the season watching a game and it popped up that he was only like 10 or 11 behind me, so I knew he was pretty close. I’m just grateful to have that accomplishment. It’s cool for sure. It’s kind of gratifying to see the hard work pay off a little bit.”
The 6-foot-6 Jessup had many memorable moments, but none more than his steal under the basket and layup in the final second to force overtime against Utah State and help the Broncos pull off one of the most improbable comebacks in college basketball history. Boise State trailed by 18 points with 4:10 left, but won the game in overtime — thanks in part to two more big buckets from Jessup.
His senior season was his best. He started all 32 games and averaged 16.0 points while shooting 39.5% from 3-point range. He also led the Broncos in steals and blocks and showed great improvement on the defensive end.
For his career, Jessup became the first player in program history to have more than 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 steals and 50 blocked shots.
“It was great,” Jessup said. “I had a good experience and I think I learned more these last four years than I ever have in my whole life. The growth has been crazy as a person and a basketball player and it’s just a testament to the culture coach Rice has here.
“I made some amazing friendships, great relationships and honestly learned so much about myself and basketball and I feel like I’ve matured a ton. At the end of the day it was a great decision to come here and play here. ... It’s a little weird with how it ended so abruptly. I can’t say I’ve moved on completely because I enjoyed every second of it, but I’m focusing on other things now.”
Those other things include signing with an agent and training for a shot at the NBA.
Jessup wasn’t the Boise State player talked about in regards to the NBA last season, but he is hopeful he’ll get a shot. He knows he won’t get drafted, but is hoping to land a spot on a summer league team to try and earn a free agent contract.
If not, he’s content playing in the NBA Developmental League or starting his career overseas.
“I want to play as long as I can and make as much money as I can,” Jessup said. “Basketball is a huge part of my life so I’m extremely open to overseas opportunities and honestly that’s going to probably be a thing for me down the line.”
Jessup is doing what he can to stay in shape, but it’s unclear when or if the NBA will allow workouts for teams prior to the draft. The draft may not even happen June 25 as scheduled due to the season being suspended at the moment due to the coronavirus.
“My key card doesn’t even work anymore for the gym,” Jessup joked. “It’s been turf fields and the park for me the last couple of weeks. I’ve only been able to shoot at the park. I’m going to get my girlfriend to start rebounding for me. That’s about where it’s at right now.
“A lot of guys are probably sitting around doing nothing, so right now is an opportunity for me to pass a lot of those people up in terms of being ready when things start back up. I’m trying to take advantage of that.”
For a brief time there was some thought seniors might get a chance to come back next year since the season was ended prematurely. That since has been voted down.
Asked if he would have considered coming back for another year if given the chance, Jessup laughed.
“I don’t know to be honest,” Jessup said. “I hadn’t really thought about it because I knew there was no chance it would happen. And they don’t really need me next year anyway, so probably not.”
His career would say otherwise.