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.
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).
AUBURN ALL-TIME NBA DRAFT PICKS (34)
1960 – Henry Hart, 12th Round, 82nd Overall, New York Knicks
1963 – Layton Johns, 4th Round, 34th Overall, Los Angles Lakers
1965 – Joe Newton, 3rd Round, 21st Overall, Washington Wizards
1966 – Lee DeFore, 4th Round, 31st Overall, New York Knicks
1971 – John Mengelt, 2nd Round, 21st Overall, Cincinnati Royals
1972 – Henry Harris, 8th Round, 120th Overall, Houston Rockets
1973 – Jim Retseck, 3rd Round, 46th Overall, Golden State Warriors
1976 – Gary Reddings, 5th Round, 73rd Overall, Portland Trail Blazers
1977 – Eddie Johnson, Jr., 3rd Round, 49th Overall, Atlanta Hawks
1978 – Mike Mitchell, 1st Round, 15th Overall, Cleveland Cavaliers
1978 – Stan Pietkiewicz, 7th Round, 133rd Overall, Buffalo Braves
1979 – Rich Valavicius, 7th Round, 143rd Overall, Houston Rockets
1981 – Earl Banks, 6th Round, 122nd Overall, Seattle SuperSonics
1981 – Bobby Cattage, 8th Round, 165th Overall, Utah Jazz
1983 – Darrell Lockhart, 2nd Round, 35th Overall, San Antonio Spurs
1983 – Odell Mosteller, 10th Round, 211th Overall, Utah Jazz
1984 – Charles Barkley, 1st Round, 5th Overall, Philadelphia 76ers
1984 – Greg Turner, 9th Round, 193rd Overall, Kansas City Kings
1986 – Chuck Person, 1st Round, 4th Overall, Indiana Pacers
1987 – Frank Ford, 6th Round, 138th Overall, Los Angeles Lakers
1987 – Gerald White, 7th Round, 158th Overall, Dallas Mavericks
1988 – Mike Jones, 3rd Round, 63rd Overall, Milwaukee Bucks
1994 – Wesley Person, 1st Round, 23rd Overall, Phoenix Suns
2000 – Mamadou N'Diaye, 1st Round, 26th Overall, Denver Nuggets
2000 – Chris Porter, 2nd Round, 55th Overall, Golden State Warriors
2001 – Jamison Brewer, 2nd Round, 40th Overall, Indiana Pacers
2019 – Chuma Okeke, 1st Round, 16th Overall, Orlando Magic
2020 – Isaac Okoro, 1st round, 5th Overall, Cleveland Cavaliers
2021 – JT Thor, 2nd Round, 37th Overall, Detroit Pistons
2021 – Sharife Cooper, 2nd Round, 48th Overall, Atlanta Hawks
2022 – Jabari Smith, 1st Round, 3rd Overall, Houston Rockets
2022 – Walker Kessler, 1st Round, 22nd Overall, Memphis Grizzles (traded to MIN)