Walker Kessler Makes NBA History In Jazz Debut

Oct 20, 2022, 1:17 PM | Updated: Nov 7, 2022, 2:19 pm
Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler goes up for a rebound (Photo: Deseret News/Ben B. Braun)
(Photo: Deseret News/Ben B. Braun)

SALT LAKE CITY – Walker Kessler made history for the Utah Jazz in his rookie debut.

The first-year big man recorded a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while shooting a perfect 5-5 from the floor.

Kessler is the only player in NBA history to record a double-double while shooting 100 percent from the floor in their rookie debut.

It’s a remarkable feat for the rookie out of Auburn. More than 4,700 players have stepped foot on an NBA floor, and none of them ever matched his stat line.

Even more impressive is that much of Kessler’s work came against reigning tw0-time MVP Nikola Jokic as the Jazz took down the Denver Nuggets 123-102 in the season opener.

“You come to your first NBA game and Nikola Jokic is on the floor, it’s a whole different deal,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “And we had a lot of veteran guys really helping him through that. And Walker was great, he delivered, he made a lot of big plays.”

Kessler also credited the Jazz veterans with helping him during his historic debut.

“Playing with Mike [Conley] in the pick and roll is like the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Kessler said. “The way he’s patient with it and holds off his man, I mean, it’s helped me so much.”

Prior to the game, Jazz starter Kelly Olynyk explained the challenges Kessler would face in his first game.

“For him, it’s going to be a lot of learning,” Olynyk said, “learning on the fly and being able to just move on to the next play and not get too up or down on whatever happens.”

Kessler wasn’t perfect despite his making history for the Jazz. The center shot just 2-6 from the free throw line, and found himself in the wrong spot on a few of the team’s offensive possessions.

The mistakes didn’t go unnoticed by the rookie who after the game apologized to the coaching staff for his missed free throws.

“That’s just the kind of kid that he is,” Hardy said. “He works really hard, he wants to win, and he’s trying to learn. A double-double and your first NBA game is really cool.”

The rookie is also the first player in Jazz history to record a double-double in his debut.

Kesler Prior To Joining Jazz

Kessler was one of five players traded to the Jazz by the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Rudy Gobert.

The big man was one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school and committed to the University of North Carolina in the summer of 2020. After seeing limited minutes with the Tar Heels as a freshman, Kessler transferred to Auburn and quickly blossomed in Bruce Pearl’s system.

Kessler averaged 11.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and a staggering 4.6 blocks as a sophomore while shooting 60 percent from the floor in just 25 minutes per game.

Last season Kessler was named the Naismith and NABC National Defensive Player of the Year and owns the single-season college record with 155 blocks.

The Auburn product was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies with 22nd overall pick before being redirected to the Timberwolves on draft night.

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