SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – After a slow start to his rookie season, Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler finished so strong, he was a finalist for NBA Rookie of the Year.
After playing with Team USA this summer in the FIBA World Cup. Kessler is looking to build on his first year in the league.
“What an honor to go play for your country,” Kessler said. “Especially growing up as a kid and watching the Olympics, just the idea of playing for your country was spectacular.”
Kessler didn’t play much in the World Cup games, but the whole experience playing with established NBA stars, helped build his confidence.
“The fact that I didn’t play, you can see that I didn’t get a lot of experience,” Kessler said. “But you’re practicing every day against those guys, and you’re learning so much, you’re watching film. I gained a lot of confidence.”
It wasn’t until mid-January when Kessler became a regular starter for the Jazz, and that’s when he took off. Kessler finished his rookie season season with 17 double-doubles, he was fourth in the NBA in blocked shots with 2.3 per game, and set an NBA rookie record for highest field goal percentage at 72 percent.
This year, Kessler wants to pick up where he left off.
“Really hitting the ground running this year,” Kessler said about one of his primary goals. “Because I didn’t really start playing until the second half of the year, so learning how to play a consistent game and show up every night for every game that I play.”
Now that he knows the every day grind of an 82-game NBA season, Kessler will be more prepared headed into his second season in the league.
“Being able to stay in that mindset that I’m bringing it every night, and not let anything affect you.” Kessler said.
With the bulk of the Jazz roster still in tact, Kessler feels there won’t be as much of a learning curve as there was last year.
“The sense of comfortability going into the year, a sense of, OK, I’ve played with these guys before. I know what they like, and they know what I like.”
It sure appears as though the Jazz have found their center of the future.