Justinian Jessup’s 50 made 3-pointers last season were the second-most by a freshman in Boise State men’s basketball history.
Even so, Jessup wasn’t satisfied.
“After the season ended, I realized I have to shoot a way better percentage and make a lot more 3s,” said Jessup, who shot 35.5 percent on 3-pointers. “I just really tried to come into the gym and work on that a lot.”
Thirteen games into his sophomore year, the 6-foot-6 guard has 45 made 3-pointers and ranks among the best in the nation beyond the arc. He’ll try to add to that total when Boise State (11-2, 1-0 MW) plays at UNLV (11-2) on Saturday in Las Vegas (9 p.m. MT, AT&T/ROOT).
“When we recruited him, that’s kind of what I envisioned as far as some day,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “I didn’t know when that day would be. I didn’t know it would come as quickly as it did, but I said, ‘This kid could be one of the better shooters in the country.’ ”
Jessup’s quick progress hasn’t happened by accident.
Every day over the summer, Jessup stayed in the gym until he made 300 shots. His teammates say he’s easily among the hardest-working and most humble players on the roster.
“Justinian, everything about him on the court and off the court, he’s kind of that silent type of guy,” Boise State senior Chandler Hutchison said. “You wouldn’t know that he’s one of the top workers on our team, just the way he carries himself. He’s always in here, always in the gym working.”
The dude’s talented. He’s got a great work ethic, and he can shoot the heck out of the ball.
Chandler Hutchison on teammate Justinian Jessup
Jessup’s average of 3.46 triples per game ranks first in the Mountain West and 19th in the country, and his 3-point field-goal percentage of 48.4 is also first in the conference and 21st overall. There are only 13 players in the nation who have made more 3s than Jessup this season, and each of them has done so on more attempts.
That’s indicative of one of the first traits Rice noticed about Jessup during the recruiting process. Jessup was the 2015 Colorado 4A Player of the Year as a junior.
“He was the biggest guy on (his high school) team, and you’d go watch him and ... sometimes he’d be playing inside for them,” Rice said. “He’s one of those guys, though, he’ll just do whatever the team needs, and that’s what makes him so good and such a great team guy, such a tough competitor and such a consistent guy.”
Jessup has made three or more 3-pointers in nine games this season, but he’s never attempted more than nine in a game. His single-game high this season is six, which he made against Southern Utah and Loyola (Chicago).
“I don’t want to just come out and shoot every time. Our system really emphasizes ball movement and getting to the paint and creating for others,” Jessup said. “I’m not just going to come out and be hucking up threes. I’m going to take good shots — at least I try to — and my teammates do a great job of setting me up for those open looks.”
The left-handed Jessup isn’t a one-dimensional player. He is Boise State’s second-leading scorer at 14.4 points per game, tied for third in rebounding (5.5) and tied for first in steals (1.4).
At his current rate, Jessup is on pace to break Boise State’s single-season 3-point record of 92 set by Abe Jackson during the 2001-02 season.
“I was telling the guys that you can lead them to the water, but you can’t hold their head under water and make them drink. They have to want it. They have to be thirsty for it,” Rice said. “(Jessup’s) a kid that when we recruited him, he just wanted to be in the gym.”
Boise State women host UNLV
After a come-from-behind victory in their Mountain West opener Thursday at Colorado State, the Broncos host UNLV at 1 p.m. Saturday in Taco Bell Arena.
Boise State’s win over Colorado State was just the second conference home loss for the Rams since the start of the 2013-14 season.
But the Broncos (7-5, 1-0) don’t want a repeat of last year, when they opened with an upset of Colorado State and then lost at home to UNLV.
“We’ll see how that works out on Saturday, but at least we got a win on the road (at a place) that no one wants to play,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “At least we have that, and we can check that, and now we move on to the next one.”
UNLV (5-6) has won three straight against the Broncos.