In what is one of our favorite traditions, we have yet another edition of Scholarships After Dark tonight. As is common with the UNC basketball program, a late night scholarship offer was announced in the middle of the week. This latest offer is further proof that Roy Williams’ staff is starting to dive head-first into the 2020 recruiting class.
The Elite Performance Institute was the first to report that Williams has offered 2020 five-star center Walker Kessler a scholarship, which was soon confirmed by various UNC outlets. This is just the sixth scholarship offer put forth by the Heels to a player in the current junior class (after Isaiah Todd, Jeremy Roach, Ziaire Williams, Greg Brown III, and the committed Day’Ron Sharpe), and yet another clear indication that the coaching staff is searching aggressively for top-tier talent to roam the paint: Brown, Todd, and Sharpe are post players as well.
Kessler, a 7’0”, 235-pound center, plays his high school ball at Woodward Academy in Georgia. Recruiting services Rivals (#9) and 247 Sports (#13) have him in the top-15 of their current 2020 class rankings, agreeing that he is the #2 center in the country.
Roy Williams has clearly made Kessler a priority this season. Despite traveling all over the country last week, he visited Georgia multiple times and pulled the trigger on an offer the day after waxing Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
UNC Head Coach Roy Williams attending Woodward Academy’s 630am practice this morning to see 2020 7’0 PF/C Walker Kessler!— EPI Training (@ElitePInstitute) January 24, 2019
Stud big man Walker Kessler scores 38 points in a win tonight for Woodward Academy I’m front of UNC head coach Roy Williams. pic.twitter.com/JlvdNg4ZEu— HoopSeen (@hoopseen) January 26, 2019
While he is not extremely explosive, Kessler’s height, length, and body control make him dangerous at the rim. Soft hands, an array of post moves, and the ability to go to the left and right side of the rim will help him find a niche at whatever school he chooses, but as UNC fans have seen over the years, this skill set would would make him a particularly perfect fit at North Carolina. That length would also help UNC on defense, where they’ve been lacking true consistent rim protection since the days of Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks.
His advanced skill in the post doesn’t mean that Kessler can’t bring some versatility to the court, though. In the highlights below, he clearly shows the ability to shoot (and make) jump shots consistently. He’s longer, taller, and more fluid than Luke Maye, but that is where the comparisons are likely to start for UNC fans. As we’ve said before, there are plenty of traditional big men for Roy’s offense, but many of those big men have now grown up in a generation where they’re allowed (encouraged?) to develop a jump shot. Kessler seems to fit that mold.
Georgia is expected to be among Kessler’s top suitors, as his dad, uncle, and brother all played at Georgia. He also holds offers from Duke, Michigan, and Virginia.
It’s hard to project who will still be at UNC by the time the class of 2020 steps on campus, but right now it looks like just among post players, Brandon Huffman, Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, and Day’Ron Sharpe will all likely be in Carolina uniforms. Even with all of that size, UNC is clearly trying to increase their depth and skill level in the paint. Remember, they are also still in the running for 2019 power forward Matthew Hurt and hybrid forward Precious Achiuwa. Isaiah Todd has also recently mentioned possibly reclassifying to the 2019 class.
Kessler has not announced a timeline for a decision. The next step, from UNC’s perspective, would be to get him on campus for his last official visit of this semester. He has already taken official visits to Virginia, Michigan, and Vanderbilt and is scheduled to visit Duke on February 1 with no plans as of yet for his fifth. Due to the recent changes to NCAA visitation rules, Kessler can take five more official visits between the end of his junior year and the Oct. 15th following his high school graduation if he stays in the 2020 class, which is not guaranteed.
We’ll keep you posted on this recruitment as it moves along. For more recruiting news, be sure to check out our weekly recaps on Fridays!