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Jessie Is Working to Make Sure Job Search Ends With Payoff

Basketball: Former Edison star now waits to see whether he'll be picked in the NBA draft.

June 11, 1996|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HUNTINGTON BEACH — Brandon Jessie needs a job.

Jessie is young and hard working, and not opposed to traveling. He knows what he wants to do and even has a salary in mind, although the latter is negotiable. He hopes.

Of course, most members of the class of '96 have big plans--but pickings are slim.

Jessie's edge? An invitation.

Jessie, a former all-conference guard at Utah and an Orange County prep standout, was among many NBA hopefuls at a pre-draft camp last week in Chicago. The camp was the final showcase for players before the draft and a place dreams die annually.

So far, Jessie isn't considering a career change. Jessie is doing his best, and he'll find out soon if that was good enough.

"This is it," said Jessie, who still resides in Huntington Beach. "I'm just going out and trying to perform. I've worked real hard. I just want a shot."

Jessie got his shot in the camp, at the Moody Bible Institute, based on his performance in two seasons with the Utes. The youngest son of former Ram receiver Ron, Jessie was selected first-team All-Western Athletic Conference each season.

As a senior, he averaged 13.9 points and 5.2 rebounds as the Utes reached the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16. This followed his success at Ventura College and Edison High.

Playing well in Chicago was pivotal for players such as Jessie, who are fighting for draft position or just to be drafted. Participation is by invitation only, so simply getting in was a hurdle. Everyone invited, in theory, has a shot at playing in "the league," as the NBA is known to all involved.

Jessie's chances are better than average, at least one successful NBA executive believes.

"He's a tough guy, and I really like that," Utah Jazz President Frank Layden said. "Jessie will come right back at you each time, and there aren't a lot of tough guys in the league."

At 6 feet 4 and 230 pounds, Jessie has the size to play shooting guard. However, Layden said Jessie can improve his packaging.

"He needs to get into better shape," Layden said. "He has a good, strong body, but he's probably carrying a little too much [weight]."

Ron noticed too. After his son's so-so showing during an April NBA camp in Phoenix, Ron decided the kid needed some work. So he took Brandon to train in Lake Tahoe for three weeks.

"I just wanted to get him away from all the distractions, so he could focus on what he had to do," Ron said. "[The Chicago camp] is a job interview. In order to try to make an impression, you have to be ready."

Ron and Brandon stayed in a cabin belonging to Newport Beach-based attorney Milton Grimes. Ron is an investigator for Grimes.

Although Jessie, 22, excelled at Utah, he admits he wasn't the last guy to leave the weight room. But natural ability alone won't bring him a shoe deal.

"There were times when I could have worked harder," Jessie said. "I guess there were times when I could have been a little more focused. I mean, I was focused, but maybe not like I should have been all the time."

He did have a lot to handle.

His daughter, Kiana Beau Jessie, was born with Down syndrome. Kiana, whose first birthday is June 21, then contracted Citrobacter, a bacterial infection that is highly dangerous to newborns.

The NCAA suspended Jessie for the first seven games last season because he allegedly received a pager, a trip to Cancun, Mexico, and other benefits from Oxnard sports agent Robert Troy Caron when he played at Ventura College. And Jessie is a defendant in a lawsuit, stemming from an alleged assault May 28, 1994, in Ventura.

Moreover, life in Utah wasn't fun for Jessie. The Utes are followed with great passion, and Jessie didn't like living under the microscope.

How bad was it?

"The day after [Utah lost to Kentucky] I packed my bags and was out of there," Jessie said. "Oh, man, those people."

Jessie returned to his parents' Huntington Beach home, and things improved. Kiana is getting stronger each day and Jessie is confident that the suit, being handled by Grimes' office, soon will be resolved in his favor.

The draft is scheduled June 26. Jessie hopes his improving fortunes continue.

"From here on out," he said, "this is my job."

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