SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – As brilliant as Walker Kessler’s rookie season was, it didn’t end the way he wanted, with a concussion that kept him out the final four games.
“The first day I got back, there was a lot of sleeping,” Kessler said. “I’m pretty good now. I was wearing some blue light glasses, but I’m trying to ween off of them.”
Kessler’s first few months in the NBA were eye-opening in that he was not used to the speed of the game as rookie out of Auburn.
“Game one, I probably had my eyebrows like this because I was just so scared of everything,” said Kessler, who was acquired by the Jazz in the Rudy Gobert trade. “I have a lot more confidence, just understanding that I belong.”
Kessler developed quickly and became a starter for the final 34 games. He averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game as a starter. Kessler ended up fourth in the NBA in blocks at 2.3 per game.
Thanks to his young coach and this young team, Kessler wasn’t treated like a rookie, and he could make an NBA All-Rookie Team.
“I had heard horror stories about rookie years and rookie walls,” Kessler said. “But this year was unbelievable just because of our staff and the guys. Going into this year, I didn’t have any expectations for myself. So to be in those considerations is pretty cool.”
At 7-feet, 240 pounds, Kessler will work on getting stronger this off-season.
“We don’t want to take away any of Walker’s mobility and the things that he does great because he is able to move so well. But he does have a young body, so trying to get a little stronger is going to be a big part of Walker’s summer.”
So after such a great rookie season, what is Kessler’s ceiling in this league?
“What’s my ceiling?” Kessler asked as he jokingly looked up at the ceiling. “I think I can be pretty good at this sport. There wasn’t really a doubt in my mind, but it was just kind of finding my way at the beginning of the season. But now I understand that I do belong and I can contribute to an NBA team.”