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Jabari Smith (10) and Walker Kessler (13) celebrate after beating Mississippi State in OT

Front Court Duo of Kessler and Smith Earn SEC Honors

AUBURN, ALABAMA (EETV)- The front court duo of Walker Kessler and Jabari Smith earned postseason awards from the Southeastern Conference when the league office announced the award lists on Tuesday.

Freshman Jabari Smith was named as Freshman of the Year, was named First Team All-SEC and was named to the All-Freshman Team by the league office. Smith is the first player in Auburn history to be named as Freshman of the Year. 

Smith turned in an impressive rookie campaign garnering SEC Freshman of the Week honors six times. The most in Auburn history. Smith averaged a team-leading 17.1 points per game and shot 43.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc this season.

With those numbers, Smith earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team. The Fayetteville, Georgia, native is the third-straight Auburn freshman player to be tabbed one of the league’s top rookies along with Isaac Okoro in 2020 and Sharife Cooper in 2021. 

Smith also became the first Auburn player since 1999 to earn a spot on an All-America Team as The Sporting News selected him to its All-America Second Team on Monday. The freshman is also a national finalist for the John R. Wooden Award and Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.

Sophomore Walker Kessler was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was named First Team All-SEC and was named to the All-Defensive Team by the league office on Tuesday. Kessler is the first Auburn player to ever receive the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award. 

Kessler set the single season block record at Auburn with 140. That shattered the previous record of 126 set by Kyle Davis. The Newnan, Georgia, native currently is the NCAA Division I and SEC leader in blocked shots averaging 4.5 a game. He also leads the team in rebounding with 8.2 rebounds per game and is fourth in steals with 33.

Kessler was honored on the SEC All-Defensive Team alongside Keon Ellis of Alabama, Jaylin Williams of Arkansas, Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky and Zakai Zeigler of Tennessee. This season, the big man became the second-ever Tiger to record a triple-double since Kenny Gabriel in 2012. His two triple-doubles this season ranks second in SEC history only behind Hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal.  

Kessler is a national finalist for the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.

The nation’s best front court duo is set to return to action on Friday, March 11. Tipoff is slated for 11 a.m. CST and the Tigers will either play Florida or Texas A&M. That game will air on ESPN.