The moment he’s worked for and dreamed of his entire life could come Wednesday night for former Boise State basketball star Justinian Jessup.
Except it will be Thursday afternoon for him, and he’ll be by himself in a hotel room in Sydney, Australia.
Jessup, who has a week left on his 14-day quarantine before starting to prepare for his first professional season in the top basketball league in Australia, is hoping to hear his name called as a second round pick in the NBA Draft.
But he won’t have his parents or girlfriend or those close to him by his side for the potentially life-changing moment. He’ll be alone watching the stream on his laptop.
“It’s a pretty unique situation, but I’ll be popping champagne by myself if it happens,” Jessup said with a laugh.
The two-round NBA Draft is Wednesday night at 5 p.m. on ESPN.
Jessup played for Boise State from 2016-20 and left as one of the best shooters in school history. He set school and Mountain West records with 325 made 3-pointers, and set Boise State’s single-season 3-point record with 98 made last year. The left-handed shooter also set a program mark by going 70 for 73 from the free throw line (95.9 percent) as a senior.
He’s hoping to become just the third Boise State player to be taken in the current two-round format of the draft.
“I don’t know what my chances are,” Jessup told the Idaho Press during a phone interview from his hotel room in Sydney. “I’m hoping a team takes a chance and that would be a real blessing if that happens. If it doesn’t happen, life goes on. That’s my mindset going into it.
“It would be a dream come true and something I couldn’t have imagined coming into college.”
If mock drafts are to be trusted (they probably shouldn’t) Jessup at least has a chance to get picked on Wednesday night. The two most prominent and reputable mock drafts now both include Jessup.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie projects Jessup to go No. 60 overall with the last pick in the second round to New Orleans, saying he “had a great pre-draft process to put himself on the maps of NBA teams as the proliferation of big shooters has continued. … He’s a good kid, a hard worker and has a genuinely elite skill that every single team in the NBA is looking for in prospects.”
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Jessup going No. 56 overall in the second round to the Charlotte Hornets.
“It was definitely encouraging to see that stuff,” Jessup said of the projections. “I don’t know if teams pay attention to that or not but it was definitely encouraging.”
Jessup has signed to play in Wollongong, New South Wales, but has a clause in his contract that allows an NBA team that drafts him to either bring him back for the season or hold onto his rights while he plays in Australia this season to develop.
It’s likely an NBA team with multiple second-round picks or a deep roster would be the one to consider drafting Jessup. Those teams could afford to let him play the season in Australia before adding him to their roster next summer.
If Jessup is not drafted, he hopes to use a strong season in the NBL to earn a free agent contract with an NBA team next summer.
“Everybody’s journey and path is different,” Jessup said. “If it doesn’t happen, life goes on. I’m going to continue to work hard and take it one day at a time and try to make the most of where I’m at, wherever that is.”
Jessup’s unique combination of size and skill set (he was listed at 6-foot-7 on Boise State’s roster as a senior) makes him an intriguing, under-the-radar NBA prospect. The NBA game has shifted to more outside shooting, and Jessup fits the mold of what teams are looking for.
The left-handed shooting Jessup, who averaged 16.0 points per game last year, estimated he did formal interviews virtually with roughly 15 NBA teams. In recent weeks new teams joined the mix, which he saw as an encouraging sign that his stock was rising.
“The rise of just shooting in the NBA in general has helped,” Jessup said. “Duncan Robinson had an amazing year and teams look at him and see a guy like me and can find the similarities and I can play that type of role because I did for quite a while in college.
“And I think teams are diving deeper into the film and seeing that I bring more than just shooting.”
Jessup won at least 20 games in three of his four seasons at Boise State and ranks No. 2 in school history with 121 games started, No. 5 with 129 games played, No. 7 with 154 steals, No. 8 with 1,583 points and No. 8 in 3-point percentage at 40.7.
He’s the only player in program history to have at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 steals and 50 blocked shots.
Jessup is holding out hope for an even bigger accomplishment — being an NBA Draft pick. Even it means celebrating by himself.
“If it happens it will definitely be a life-long memory for sure,” Jessup said.