Boise State basketball player Justinian Jessup doesn’t subscribe to the theory of a “freshman wall.” He does, however, know that he’s walling off his own success at the moment.
The true freshman from Longmont, Colo., has started all 22 games for the Broncos (15-7, 8-3 MW) this season and is averaging 8.2 points per game, good for fifth on the team going into Saturday’s home game against Air Force (4 p.m., Root).
Jessup opened the season scoring 10 points or more in nine of the first 13 games, including a season-high 20 against Presbyterian. His 41 made 3-pointers are the third most for a freshman in school history.
But since the start of the new year, the 6-6 guard is averaging 5.7 points in nine contests, reaching double-figures just once in a loss at Fresno State.
Has the grind of the season gotten to him? Is his youth showing?
“I don’t really believe in the ‘freshman wall.’ I think a big part of why I haven’t been playing as well is because I’ve been getting in a lot of foul trouble in games,” Jessup said. “(It) is hard to contribute when you’re on the bench.”
While young players struggle at the end of a season because they are playing more games and adjusting to travel schedules and college, Jessup says he feels as good as he could expect. After nerves in his first pair of exhibition games, he hasn’t felt pressure, he said.
Fouling, however, is another story. Over the last nine games, Jessup has fouled out once and committed four fouls three times. More importantly, his fouls have come in bunches.
In a January loss to New Mexico and last weekend’s win over Utah State, Jessup picked up two fouls in six first-half minutes. He picked up three fouls in two first-half minutes at Fresno State. At Colorado State, Jessup collected three fouls in four second-half minutes. Jessup has played less than 20 minutes five times in the last nine games; he had one such outing in the first 13.
It’s not that Jessup is playing badly. He’s having trouble staying in games and finding a rhythm, head coach Leon Rice said. Jessup has attempted more than seven shots once in the last nine games.
“I think he was playing great in the last game, and he got in foul trouble,” Rice said. “And I think that dictated (his play) more than anything.”
To remedy his predicament, the coaching staff is forcing Jessup to hold tennis balls in his hands as he defends during practice. The idea is to make Jessup defend without being able to grab.
“Some of these young guys put their hands on guys, you’ll call a foul and they won’t even know they did it,” Rice said. “It makes them a little bit more conscientious about their hands.”
Rather than pouting about having to play less minutes, Jessup said he has enjoyed seeing other players step up. The true freshman duo of Alex Hobbs and Marcus Dickinson, Jessup’s roommates, has filled in admirably.
“To be part of a team that’s right there at the top, it’s really special,” Jessup said. “(We) just try to get better every day. That’s all we can do, really.”
Boise State (15-7, 8-3 MW) vs. Air Force (10-14, 3-8)
- When: 4 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Taco Bell Arena (12,480), Boise
- TV: Root Sports
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM (Bob Behler and Abe Jackson). Fans can also listen to the game at broncosports.com.
- Tickets: $10 (adults), $9 (seniors) and $8 (juniors) at the Taco Bell Arena box office and broncosports.com/tickets. Students can bring a free guest through their student ticket account.
- Did you know? Air Force is 0-9 on the road this year.
- Blackout: Boise State will wear black jerseys, and fans are encouraged to wear black as well. The Broncos are 4-0 in home blackout games all-time.
- Boise State women: The Broncos (15-7, 5-6 MW) play at Air Force (3-18, 1-10) at 2 p.m. Saturday (1350 AM).