Coveted transfer Walker Kessler announced Monday that he is headed to Auburn after one season at North Carolina. The seven-footer was a five-star prospect and the No. 22 overall prospect in the Class of 2020, according to the 247Sports Composite. Kessler was slowed by COVID-19 protocols during his lone season with the Tar Heels but came on strong at the end of the season with four straight double-digit outings in late February.
"I am excited to play for a great coach at an awesome school and be close to home and my family," Kessler wrote in an Instagram post. "War eagle!"
Gonzaga was among Auburn's top competitors for Kessler, and new North Carolina coach Hubert Davis was also clear about his intent to try and convince Kessler to return to UNC. Kessler is from the Atlanta suburb of Fairburn, and he could end up forming a brutal one-two punch in the frontcourt for Auburn next season.
The Tigers also have signed five-star power forward Jabari Smith, who is the No. 5 overall player in the Class of 2021. Auburn's top interior presence from this past season was freshman J.T. Thor, who is testing the NBA Draft waters. Even if he decides to keep his name in the NBA Draft, the duo of Kessler and Smith should give Auburn one of the nation's most imposing front lines.
Kessler's addition is another sign that Auburn will return with a vengeance under veteran coach Bruce Pearl after the Tigers self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2020-21 season and limped to a 13-14 record.