Jazz Rookie Walker Kessler Blocks Shot By Wolves Center Rudy Gobert
Oct 21, 2022, 7:14 PM
(Courtesy of Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Jazz rookie Walker Kessler rejected a couple of shots on one possession, including a swat on a shot attempt by former Jazzman and current Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert.
The Timberwolves hosted the Jazz at Target Center on Friday, October 21.
With 3:03 left in the first half, the Auburn product blocked a shot by Wolves guard Austin Rivers. Following a rebound by Jaden McDaniels, Kessler swatted a shot by Gobert four seconds after his previous rejection.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) October 22, 2022
Kessler and the Jazz went into the locker room halftime trailing the Timberwolves, 64-55.
At the break, Kessler had three points on 1-2 shooting off the bench. The center added five rebounds, two assists, and three blocks. Kessler posted a plus-three rating during his first 12 minutes on the court.
Walker Kessler is the real deal. Shot blocking, touch, strong passer, clearly knows the game.
He's a player.
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) October 22, 2022
Gobert had two points on 1-3 field goals, 10 rebounds, and two blocks in 16 minutes.
Walker Kessler made NBA history in Jazz 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.
Walker Kessler is the first player in NBA history to record a double-double and shoot 100% from the floor in their rookie debut.
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) October 20, 2022
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.”
Walker Kessler getting early minutes against Nikola Jokic.
Will Hardy said the Jazz wouldn't do him any favors if they tried to protect him against playing against the best NBA players.
Early minutes, he's been fine, gets a quick bucket off an offensive put back.
— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) October 20, 2022
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.
Kessler 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.
Walker Kessler last season at Auburn:
▪️ 2021-22 Naismith & NABC National Defensive Player of the Year
▪️ Led the NCAA in blocks
▪️ Set a single season record with 155 blocks
▪️ 2021-22 SEC Defensive Player of the Year
▪️ 2021-22 All-SEC First Team pic.twitter.com/AKgrlrO7GH
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) June 24, 2022
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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