Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
May 7, 1999


Former Univ. of Ga. Basketball Star and NBA Pro Graduates Medical School Near the Top of His Class

Graduation day May 10 won't be the first time Alec C. Kessler has stood out among his Emory University School of Medicine classmates.

At 6'10'', he's towered above all his medical school peers for the past four years. And with a nearly perfect grade point average (3.97), he'll graduate head and shoulders above most of his class. He's also the only Emory medical school student who can claim his picture has graced basketball trading cards in bubble gum packages.

Alec was accepted into Emory's medical school in 1990 while still an undergraduate at the University of Georgia (UGA), but deferred his entrance and within months after graduation signed a contract to play for the National Basketball Association (NBA).

At the time, Alec epitomized the scholar-athlete. He graduated magna cum laude from UGA in 1990 with a bachelor's of science in microbiology and the distinction of being the school's second all-time leading scorer in basketball with 1,788 career points and the school's No. 3 all-time leading rebounder with 893 career rebounds.

In addition to being named Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (1989, 1990), National Association of Directors of Athletics & Disney (1990), Playboy magazine (1990), and NABC/Champion (1990), Alec was unanimously named first team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC, 1990) as well as SEC Player of the Year (1990) and SEC Male Athlete of the Year (1990). He was a United Press International All-American (second team, 1990), Basketball Weekly

All-American (third team, 1990), a Street & Smith magazine Exemplary Player of the Year (1990), was a finalist for the Pete Maravich Award (1990), received the Boy Scout "Peach of an Athlete" Award (1990) and was named Outstanding Senior Male at UGA (1989).

During the 1989-90 season, Alec averaged 21.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, making him the second SEC player in the 1980s to average better than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in a season.

While at UGA, Alec was also recognized for his academic achievements. He was a four-time Academic All-SEC and First Team Academic All-American in 1988, 1989 and 1990. In 1989 and 1990 he was named Academic All-American of the Year.

He received several scholarships honoring students with dual athletic and academic talents, including the Tommy Reeder Memorial Scholarship from UGA (five times) and twice received $20,000 post-graduate scholarships as the Mercedes Benz Scholar-Athlete of the Year (1989, 1990). Soon after leaving UGA, Alec created the Alec Kessler Postgraduate Scholarship Fund for UGA athletes in need of financial assistance for postgraduate studies. Upon graduation, Alec's sights were set on basketball.

He was selected by the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 1990 NBA Draft (he was the No. 12 pick overall) and immediately found his draft rights traded to the new franchise in south Florida, the Miami Heat. From 1990-1994, Alec played forward and some center for the Heat ­ getting an opportunity to rub elbows with the biggest names in basketball.

"Basketball was at the time my main career goal and my career was certainly shorter than I or the people who drafted and paid me had planned," Alec says. "Although I did not play for many years (about five), I did go into basketball with goals of having a long and healthy career. I will say that as my basketball career progressed

I knew that it was not the right life for me and so the end of my playing days and the start of medical school was a career change I felt would put me more on the path I wanted my life to follow.

"At this point in my medical training I am very pleased with that choice and feel my intuition at the end of my basketball career was correct," he says. "My time in the NBA was tough from a living-up-to-expectations standpoint, but wonderful in terms of the people I worked with and the lifestyle my family and I lived.

At the time, Miami was a new team in the league and we lost more than our share of games, which made the season seem even longer. However, it was very fortunate that the people who made up the organization were all terrific to work with and so what could have been a dismal time was actually a good time that brings back many fond memories."

Before entering Emory's first year medical school class in summer 1995, Alec played pro ball that winter for Stephanel in Milan, Italy. Once at Emory, he again began to accrue academic achievements. He received the Lang Publishers Academic Achievement Award in 1996 and 1997, the Joseph B. Whitehead Surgical Scholarship Award in 1998 and was named to the medical school honor society Alpha Omega Alpha in 1998. He maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average for three of his four years at Emory, putting him in the top academic echelon of this year's graduating class.

Alec will be moving to Charlotte this summer with his wife, Rhea, sons, Nicholas, 3, and Christopher, 4, to begin a residency in orthopaedic surgery at Carolinas Medical Center. He attended Roswell High School in north Atlanta.


(Editor's note: B/w and color photos are available of Alec and of copies of his basketball trading card).

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