Walker Kessler, one of the biggest names in college basketball's transfer portal, has decided to continue to pursue his hoops dreams with Bruce Pearl's Tigers, according to his Instagram post on Monday.
"I'm excited to play for a great coach at an awesome school and be close to home and my family. War Eagle!" posted Kessler in announcing his destination after leaving the North Carolina program after only one season.
With impressive range, mobility and skills for a 7-foot-1 post player, Kessler was one of the most sought-after players in the country coming out of Woodward Academy in Fairburn, Georgia, being named the 2020 Gatorade Player of the Year in Georgia, one of many accolades bestowed upon the five-star recruit.
During his recruitment, he visited the Plains on one of his many stops, quickly developing a good relationships with star commits Sharife Cooper and Justin Powell, both of whom won't return to the Auburn program next season.
Kessler also developed good rapport with Pearl.
"You have a coach like coach Pearl who can get all his players to play for him and just have your back, and that's really appealing," said Kessler during his June 2019 visit to the Plains for Big Cat Weekend, where he also noted Pearl's ability to develop players as appealing. "The thing is you look at the recruits that go into Auburn, they’re not four or five star guys. Coach Pearl takes these talented players — I’m not dogging them at all — and he takes them and develops them and makes them play together.
"And that’s how you win is you get a team that all plays together."
While Auburn made his final three schools, Kessler ultimately chose to take his talents to Chapel Hill to play for the Tar Heels. But Kessler was used sparingly as a reserve off the bench, averaging only 4.4 points in 8.7 minutes a game.
When he got more playing time, Kessler produced for the Tar Heels — in the two games he played more than 15 minutes against Florida State and Notre Dame, he scored 24 points and 21 points, respectively, while also pulling down a combined 20 boards and 12 blocks.
Kessler will join a talented incoming class that includes five-star power forward Jabari Smith and four-star shooting guard Trey Alexander. The No. 5 overall player coming out of Sandy Creek High in Tyrone, Georgia, is the highest-rated signee in Auburn history. Kessler ranks second.
Kessler, Smith and Alexander will also join two other transfers in College of Charleston guard Zep Jasper and Eastern Kentucky point guard Wendell Green Jr.
Jasper averaged 15.6 points for the Cougars last season, while Green put up 15.8 points and five assists per game. Both are expected to make an immediate impact for the Tigers.
Auburn lost Cooper to the draft this season, and Powell, Jamal Johnson, Tyrell Jones and Javon Franklin also decided to continue their careers elsewhere.
JT Thor, who had a productive freshman season with the Tigers, is also testing the waters of the NBA Draft, but could return.