Long center with excellent mobility who set the curve for rim protectors at the collegiate level following his transfer to Auburn.
About Walker Kessler
Walker Kessler is a long, mobile big man with a solid frame whose rise as the nation’s best rim protector was key to Auburn’s return to prominence this season. Emerging as a prospect very early in his prep career, Kessler finished his senior year at Woodward Academy (GA) ranked among the consensus top-20 prospects in the high school class of 2020 while earning McDonald’s All-American honors. Starting his collegiate career at North Carolina, Kessler averaged 4.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks over 8.8 minutes per game as a true freshman in a deep frontcourt rotation.
Transferring to Auburn to play for head coach Bruce Pearl ahead of his sophomore year, Kessler exceeded all expectations having one of the best shot blocking seasons in recent college basketball history while providing a reliable catch and finish threat around the rim. Finishing the year averaging 11.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks over 25.6 minutes per game, the Georgia native earned NCAA Defensive Player of the Year honors as he helped Auburn reach the top of the AP poll for the first time in program history.
• Measured standing 7-foot-1 in shoes with a 256-pound frame and a 7-foot-6 wingspan at the 2022 NBA Draft Combine, Kessler has very good size for a center. His combination of mobility, timing, and his 9-foot-5 standing reach made him a presence around the rim on both ends as a sophomore.
• Though Kessler got some opportunities to play out of the post and shoot from the perimeter, he did his best work in catch and finish situations. Providing a target for lobs and drop passes, he ranked among the more prolific dunkers in college basketball but showed nice touch finishing layups with both hands as well. While his jumper remains early in its development, his coordination with the ball and ability to make the simple play as a passer afforded him some versatility.
• Ranking among the better per-minute shot blockers in the last decade, Kessler’s length, timing, and feel for making rotations stood out all season as he drove Auburn’s success on the defensive end. Switching on the perimeter in spots and still rebounding his area effectively, the 20-year-old was arguably the most impactful defensive anchor in the college game last season.
• Serving primarily as a catch and finish threat, Kessler scored at a strong rate around the rim, but also got touches in the post and opportunities to shoot 3s. While his ability to use his reach to dunk the ball played a key role in his efficiency, he also showed nice touch with his left hand, a feel for navigating short rolls, and even the ability to put the ball on the floor for methodical straight-line drives or to get to spin moves. His jump shot remains a work in progress, but he still possesses a little more versatility than most young players his height.
• Kessler is not the springiest athlete but needs little room to load up to use his reach to his advantage above the rim. Averaging 1.52 points per shot around the rim in the half court [97th percentile], he ranked among the national leaders in dunks while displaying a good catch radius for lobs and finishing several plays right over the top of defenders from near the middle of the paint. Showing the footwork and touch to score with both hands playing angles when he could not just dunk the ball but still learning how to play through physicality consistently, he proved to be more than just a dunker.
• Ranking among the most prolific offensive rebounders in college basketball during his freshman year, Kessler’s size and timing still made him a factor on the glass, but he got some opportunities to attack match ups and slide out to the perimeter as a sophomore as well. With nearly a quarter of his shot attempts within Auburn’s sets coming from the perimeter he scored 0.59 points per jump shot in the half court [10th percentile]. While he knocked down several 3s, he has significant room to smooth out his mechanics and improve his consistency at the foul line.
• Impacting the game defensively with his ability to block and challenge shots around the rim, Kessler was spectacular for stretches on the defensive end and recorded two 10-block triple-doubles. Making a huge leap with his ability to block shots without fouling this season, the 20-year-old redefined himself in his lone season at Auburn. Competing with consistent energy but showing dramatically better timing, his size made him impactful but his remarkable timing is what helped him put together one of the best shot blocking seasons in recent college basketball history.
• Looking more comfortable handling some switches than others but steadily holding his own against stronger big men in the post, Kessler allowed 0.70 points per one-on-one possession [70th percentile]. Doing a nice job leaving a cushion on the perimeter that still allowed him to block quite a few jumpers, he did a nice job playing angles against quicker guards even if he could not always contain the ball when stuck on an island.
Profile by Synergy Sports