Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler has one goal for his second NBA season: “Just keep the mentality of bringing it every night.”
The former Auburn standout has 20 games with at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in 2022-23, and his .720 field goal percentage is the second-highest in NBA history among players with at least 400 attempts. . a season.
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Kessler was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team and finished third in the KIA NBA Rookie of the Year Award voting for the 2022-23 season.
But Kessler spent the first half of his first season in a backup role.
In his rookie season, Kessler played in 74 games, including 40 starts, averaging 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. Kessler started the last 34 games he played, averaging 11.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 2.9 blocks per game. Kessler missed Utah’s final four games of the season with a concussion.
Kessler said his focus will be to “really hit the ground running this year because I didn’t start playing until the second half of the year, so learning how to play a consistent game and show up every night in every game, I think that’s going to be good for me.” Speaking will be an important learning point.”
Kessler believes he has a head start on that goal by representing Team USA at the FIBA World Cup this summer.
“Everyone always says that playing in an FIBA game gives you confidence for the new year,” Kessler said. “I think for me personally, I can definitely take confidence from that.”
At the 2023 Basketball World Cup in the Philippines, the United States lost to Germany 113-111 in the semifinals, and then lost to Canada 127-118 in overtime of the third-place match.
“First of all, what an honor it is to play for your country, especially watching the Olympics as a kid,” Kessler said. “I’ve never seen that many World Cups, but just the thought of playing for my country feels spectacular. It’s like a dream. I’ve never traveled outside of North America, so this for me is First time. That was great too. …
“Learned a lot about myself and the game. Obviously, things didn’t go the way we had hoped. But it was a great experience and I’m really looking forward to doing something like this again in the future.”
The Jazz will open the 2023-24 season on October 25 against the Sacramento Kings. Before then, the Utah Jazz will play five preseason games, starting Sunday at 8pm CDT against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz will also face the Clippers on Tuesday, the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, the New Zealand Trail Blazers on October 16 and the Kings on October 19.
Kessler said he hopes to achieve his goals this season by “staying mentally prepared, taking care of your body and understanding the mindset you have to have going into games and really believing in it.” You can’t just fake it until you make it. You really have to feel like, ‘Okay, this is what I’m going to do every night: I’m going to play hard and I’m going to compete to win. ‘”
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter: @AMarkG1.