Walker Kessler shined in his first season with the Auburn Tigers. He won the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award after transferring from North Carolina. Under Bruce Pearl’s tutelage and next to Jabari Smith Jr. in the starting lineup, Kessler had a fantastic season.

After speculation about whether he would return to the Tigers, it’s clear now that Kessler’s first season at Aubrun will be his last. He told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony that he is declaring for the 2022 NBA Draft.

Kessler averaged 11.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and a ludicrous 4.6 blocks per game while shooting 60.8 percent from the field. Although he was tasked with mostly being an interior presence, he wasn’t able to show that he has a more well-rounded game. He said that he is looking to make strides in his offense as he prepares for the next level.

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“We had so many good offensive players at Auburn that I wasn’t asked to show much of my perimeter game,” Kessler said. “Coming out of high school, I felt like I was a much better offensive player than defensively, which is funny to say now. Last year at UNC was difficult because of COVID, especially mentally, and my confidence took a hit. I’m looking forward to getting back in the lab and regaining the confidence in my perimeter game through reps.”

Kessler joins Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray and Johnny Davis as other highly touted players that have declared for the draft. Smith, who has the potential to be drafted first overall, remains noncommittal about entering the draft.