BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Auburn All-American big man Walker Kessler was selected 22nd overall by the Memphis Grizzles, who then traded his rights to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night at the 2022 NBA Draft held at the Barclays Center.
"I'm ecstatic," Kessler said. "I'm excited for the opportunity. As a kid, you look at this level of basketball and you don't really understand that it's a real thing or an attainable thing. And to finally get here, it's surreal. I'm just so excited."
Kessler, the 2022 Naismith and NABC Division I National Defensive Player of the Year, became the third member of his family to be drafted into the NBA next to his father, Chad Kessler, selected in the fifth round by the Los Angeles Clippers in 1987, and paternal uncle, Alec Kessler, selected 12th overall by the Houston Rockets in 1990.
"I'm so happy for Walker and his family," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. "Walker has had to carry the weight of a lot of people that have doubted him. He delivered in a huge way. I felt like Walker affected the game as much as any player in college basketball. He dominated the rim on both ends of the floor. And at the same time, I think his game really translates to the next level."
This past season, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and All-SEC First Team selection helped lead the Tigers to the program's first No. 1 national ranking, a SEC regular-season championship title, No. 2 NCAA Tournament seed and the third most wins in school history.
Kessler and No. 3 overall pick, Jabari Smith, became the first pair of Auburn teammates to be drafted together in the first round in program history. It's the second straight year and the ninth time in history that two Auburn players have been taken in the same draft. JT Thor and Sharife Cooper were both second-round picks a year ago.
"History matters," Pearl said. "That's what we've done tonight, having two players taken in the first round. We just added to the history of Auburn basketball."
Auburn has now had a player drafted in each of the last four NBA Drafts and six total draft picks in that span with Smith and Kessler. Before that stretch, a player from Auburn had not been drafted since 2001 (18 years).