By R.L. Bynum
The message Walker Kessler got from Hubert Davis must not have been that different than the one he got from Roy Williams.
Monday, Kessler announced on Instagram that he’s transferring to Auburn days after Davis publicly stated that he wanted the big man to stay in Chapel Hill. Kessler visited the Auburn campus Sunday.
“I am excited to play for a great coach at an awesome school and be close to home and my family. War eagle!” Kessler wrote in the below post.
Kessler joins Eastern Kentucky point guard Wendell Green Jr. and College of Charleston guard Zep Jasper as Auburn’s third transfer of the offseason.
Kessler was often seen after games putting up shots from 3-point range and it was clear that he sees himself as more of a stretch-four player similar to Luke Maye who can pull an opposing big men out on the perimeter and be a shooting threat.
Did neither Williams nor Davis have that same vision for the 7–foot–1, 245-pound big man and is that the reason that he’s no longer a Tar Heel? Did Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, who posted the below tweet shortly after Kessler’s announcement, seem more open to that role?
Whatever the reason, Kessler’s confirmed departure, despite recent rumors to the contrary, is a blow to Davis, who has already lost Day’Ron Sharpe to the NBA draft, Garrison Brooks to the transfer portal and must wait to see if Armando Bacot will eventually pull his name from NBA draft consideration. In addition, big men Sterling Manley and Walker Miller are in the transfer portal.
Davis could pursue Jonas Aidoo, a four-star 6–11 center out of Liberty Heights Athletic Institute in Charlotte. He initially committed to Marquette, but decommitted after Steve Wojciechowski was fired as coach. Aidoo got an offer Saturday from Oklahoma and also has offers from Alabama, Houston, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Tennessee.
Auburn finished last season 13–14 and 6–11 in the SEC after going 25–6 the previous season.
The Tigers certainly will have enough big men to allow Kessler to roam around the perimeter.
The two centers on Auburn’s roster last season were 6–11 freshman Dylan Cardwell and 6–10 sophomore Babatunde Akingbola and neither started a game. Cardwell averaged 3.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 15.1 minutes per game. Akingbola averaged 1.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 11 minutes per game.
Sophomore 6–8 forward Jaylin Williams started all 27 games, averaging 10.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Incoming 6–11 freshman Jabari Smith out of Tyrone, Ga., was a Naismith first-team All-American, averaging 23.4 points and 9.5 rebounds a game in his senior high school season.
Kessler is the latest ACC player to transfer to the SEC after Chris Lykes announced that he’s transferring from Miami to Arkansas.
Kessler was slowed by COVID-19 pauses early in the season. Although he only averaged 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds and 8.7 minutes per game, he showed his potential in efficiently scoring 20 points in 24 minutes in UNC’s 78–70 over Florida State. He also played well in the Tar Heels’ ACC tournament 101–59 win over Notre Dame with 16 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks in 21 minutes.
Pool photos: Top photo by Robert Willett, bottom by Andrew Dye