SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Utah Jazz rookie Walker Kessler is having an outstanding season, and the NBA is noticing.
Kessler was selected to participate in the 2023 Jordan Rising Stars game as part of NBA All-Star 2023 in Salt Lake City. The annual showcase of premier young talent, featuring a mini-tournament with four teams and three games, will air live at 7 p.m. MT on TNT on Friday, Feb. 17.
Kessler is averaging 7.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in 20.2 minutes per game in 49 games (15 starts) during his first NBA season. His 96 blocks rank fifth in the NBA (first among rookies) and among first-year players, his points per game average is ranked 12th and rebounds ranked second. Drafted in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft with the 22nd overall pick, the Atlanta native has totaled 10 double-doubles, which is tied for most among all rookies.
The 21-year-old becomes the 15th Jazz player to participate in a Rising Stars or rookie challenge, joining Bryon Russell (1994), Andrei Kirilenko (2002, 2003), Deron Williams (2006, 2007), Paul Millsap (2007, 2008), Ronnie Brewer (2008), Derrick Favors (2012), Gordon Hayward (2012), Trey Burke (2014, 2015), Rodney Hood (2015), Rudy Gobert (2015), Danté Exum (2015, 2017), Raul Neto (2016), Trey Lyles (2016, 2017), and Donovan Mitchell (2018, 2019).
The player pool consists of 11 NBA rookies, 10 second-year NBA players and seven NBA G League players. The 21 NBA players, selected by NBA assistant coaches, will be drafted onto three seven-player teams. The seven NBA G League players, selected by the league office, will comprise the fourth team.
All three games in Jordan Rising Stars will be played to a Final Target Score, meaning that a game will end with a made basket or a made free throw instead of with the clock running out. The semifinal games will be played to a Final Target Score of 40. The final game will be played to a Final Target Score of 25.
Team A will face Team B in the first semifinal (Game 1), and Team C will play Team D in the second semifinal (Game 2). The winner of Game 1 will meet the winner of Game 2 in the final (Game 3).