The Georgia basketball team is adding a player with a familiar last name and a developing game.
Landmark Christian forward Houston Kessler, whose father, Chad, and late uncle Alec played for the Bulldogs, faxed in his signed letter of intent Wednesday morning.
“I’m really happy,” Chad Kessler said. “I had kind of wanted Houston to end up at Georgia for a long time but didn’t know whether that would work out. I was really excited when Coach (Mark) Fox started to take an interest in him.”
The 6-foot-8 , 210-pound Kessler is expected to be the final piece of the Bulldogs’ signing class after missing out on McDonald’s All-American center Tony Parker from Miller Grove on Monday when he chose to sign with UCLA over Georgia and several others.
“We kind of had to get the final word on Tony Parker, and once that was in, they were able to move forward,” Chad Kessler said.
Kessler had a scholarship offer from Mississippi State and took a visit to Clemson recently. Furman, UNC-Asheville, William & Mary, Air Force and Navy also offered scholarships.
“Houston is a skilled forward,” Fox said in a statement. “He is a great shooter and rebounder and we are looking forward to having him join our team next year.”
Kessler was a first-team Class A selection on the Georgia Sports Writers Association all-state team after averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Fairburn school.
“Houston was a slower developer and wasn’t highly recruited, but coach Fox spent a lot of time studying him and saw some things that he felt that Houston could become something with time,” Chad Kessler said. “There’s still some question of whether Houston would redshirt or not, because I think he does need some time to develop.”
Georgia has followed Kessler since his sophomore season, Landmark Christian coach Chip McAllister said.
“They’ve watched his development and watched how he’s grown physically and as a player,” he said. “The leap he made from this time last year to now, if he makes another leap like that, he can be a great player at Georgia.”
McAllister said he expects Kessler will play as a “stretch 4 for them, a 4 that can step out and really, really shoot it. He shoots it great.”
Chad Kessler played for the Bulldogs from 1984-87 and was named an academic all-American. He is an orthopedic surgeon who deferred enrollment in medical school to play pro basketball for a year.
“For me and for Alec, it was just a tremendous four years,” Chad Kessler said. “We loved the institution, loved the University of Georgia, and when coach Fox became the head coach, I got to know him and was so impressed with him and what he’s doing with the program.”
Alec Kessler redshirted in 1986 but was an all-American when he captained Georgia’s 1990 Southeastern Conference championship team. He was the program’s career scoring leader with 1,788 points before Litterrial Green surpassed that total. Alec Kessler, a former NBA player, died of heart-related complications on Oct. 13, 2007.
McAllister said Houston “is a very smart kid with a great basketball IQ. He’s just starting to scratch the surface as a player that he can become. … Just like his uncle Alec who played there. He kind of developed after he got there.”
Georgia’s signing class also includes point guard Charles Mann from Milton High in Alpharetta, shooting guard Kenny Gaines from Whitefield Academy in Smyrna and small forward Brandon Morris from Miller Grove.
Notes: Georgia has lined up its season opening men’s basketball opponent for this year and a tournament for 2014.
The Bulldogs will play Jacksonville University on Nov. 9 in Stegeman Coliseum. The Atlantic Sun team went 8-22 last season.
Georgia has also signed a contract to play in the 2014 National Invitation Tournament Season Tip-Off, according to a contract obtained under an open records request.
The Bulldogs are guaranteed to play four games in the tournament that currently has a 16-team format.
There are four host sites for the November tournament. The final rounds are held at Madison Square Garden in New York. Syracuse beat Stanford in last season’s Preseason NIT.
Georgia last played in the tournament in the 2008-09 season when it played two opening round games in West Lafaeytte, Ind., and two consolation games in Athens.
Jacksonville will get $85,000 for the game in Athens this season. Georgia is 8-0 in the series,
winning the last meeting 93-77 on Dec. 19, 2006.