Justinian Jessup's patient path to Warriors will suit him just fine

Marcus White
·4 min read

Patient path to Warriors suits second-rounder Jessup just fine originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Even during an atypical NBA draft, Justinian Jessup had an atypical experience.

The Warriors' second-round pick (No. 51 overall) out of Boise State spent it quarantining in an Australian hotel room, protocol after traveling to the country ahead of joining the NBL's Hawks for the 2020-21 season as part of the league's "Next Star" program. Jessup, like his fellow draftees, was locked in on the draft.

The only problem? He couldn't watch it.

"The TV in the hotel doesn't get ESPN, and I couldn't find a stream that really worked," Jessup told reporters in a video conference call Friday afternoon (Saturday morning in Australia). "I was really just sitting on the couch kind of just keeping up with people on my phone. ... I wasn't watching or anything, just kind of found out through my phone."

Jessup's patience paid off when the Warriors picked him nine selections before the end of Wednesday night's draft. He's going to need it, first over the next few days as he completes his quarantine, then over the next season as he acclimates to life as a professional in a new country, all as he tries to chart a path to play for the Warriors.

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The 22-year-old is used to being patient. Jessup, a 6-foot-7 guard, was a four-year starter at Boise State, increasing his scoring average year over year with the Broncos. As a senior, he scored 16.0 points per game while knocking down 39.7 percent of his 3-point shots.

Jessup said Friday his only offers coming out of high school were at Boise State and Davidson, Warriors star Steph Curry's alma mater. He hoped to play professionally overseas after college, not viewing the NBA as a possibility. It is now, but it's not a guarantee, and that led Jessup to decide to join the Hawks after numerous overseas offers this summer.

"[Former NBA executive] Bryan Colangelo's the owner, so there's some NBA ties and we thought it would be beneficial to go over there," Jessup said of deciding to play in Australia. " ... They were able to get me into the ['Next Star'] program, so that was an incentive as well."

As part of the program, which No. 3 overall draft pick LaMelo Ball participated when he played for the Hawks last season, the NBL's literature says Jessup will make up to $50,000 and have access to "weekly individual training sessions" with a focus on his development outside of team practices. The left-handed guard wants to prioritize adding strength, improving his lateral quickness and further developing his off hand and ability to drive to the basket.

Jessup said he interviewed twice with the Warriors, and Golden State general manager and president of basketball operations Bob Myers admitted a week before the draft it was a possibility the team would select a player to stash overseas. Despite what Jessup called an "odd" pre-draft process held during a global pandemic, the guard thinks his year in Australia will better equip to make the Warriors when he returns to the United States.

"I think it's kind of a blessing in disguise a little bit," Jessup said. "Just being over here, and I know they're still gonna keep an eye on me and on my development and stuff. Yeah, I think it's a great opportunity to acclimate to the professional level, even though it's obviously not quite the NBA."

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The Warriors haven't yet held detailed conversations about what they envision for, or expect from, Jessup. No current Golden State players have reached out to him yet, either.

There will be plenty time for all of that over the next year as Jessup grows his game and works on his body. His path to the NBA is going to be a patient one, and that suits Jessup just fine.

"Like a lot of people say, it's a pretty surreal moment [getting drafted] and just a flood of excitement, joy and gratitude all at once," Jessup said. "I'm super grateful to be part of the organization."