Despite the premature ending of Auburn basketball’s 2021-22 season, members of the team continue to go down in school history by racking up national awards.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) recognized Jabari Smith Jr. and Walker Kessler with two of the top NCAA Division I awards, both the first Tigers in program history to earn the respective honors. Recipients of the awards are voted on by coaching members of the NABC from DI programs around the country.
Jabari Smith was tabbed as the NABC’s Freshman of the Year, presented by Adidas. The six-time SEC Freshman of the Week is being projected as one of the top lottery picks in the 2022 NBA Draft, though he has not officially declared as of yet.
Earlier this year, Smith was also named to the NABC’s All-American first-team and was declared SEC Freshman of the Year in addition to the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year. Smith finished up his rookie year averaging 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and two assists while shooting at 42.9 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the arc.
Walker Kessler’s debut on the Plains was just as impressive as Smith’s, and he earned the honors of being NABC’s Defensive Player of the Year, presented by Marriott Bonvoy. Kessler was also named to the NABC’s All-American third-team in addition to becoming the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
The big man racked up the most blocks in DI basketball this season with 155, the most single-season blocks in Auburn basketball history, and recorded two triple-doubles. He finished up 2021-22 averaging 11.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, and 4.6 blocks while shooting at 60.8 percent from the field and 20 percent from behind the arc.
The front-court duo of Smith and Kessler continues to make Auburn basketball history as the first All-Americans in nearly two decades and now as the first NABC award winners in school history.