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Kentucky Basketball Preview: Nate Sestina ready to lead Wildcats’ frontcourt

The UK graduate transfer brings toughness, leadership and long-range shooting to the post.

Kentucky State v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Nate Sestina

  • Class: Graduate transfer senior
  • Height: 6-9
  • Weight: 234
  • 2019 ppg: 15.8
  • 2019 rpg: 8.5
  • 2019 3 point %: 38
  • Hometown: Emporium, Pennsylvania
  • High School: Cameron County

Reid Travis was the old man on the block for the Kentucky Wildcats last season. He was a grad transfer from Stanford that brought toughness and vocal leadership to a team that desperately needed both. Travis led the Cats to an Elite Eight in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. While he didn’t realize his NBA dreams, he had a wonderful and impactful time at Kentucky.

John Calipari liked what Travis brought to the table so much that he went out and nabbed yet another graduate transfer. Nate Sestina played for Bucknell last season. While, like Travis, he brings vocal leadership and experience to the team, Sestina is a completely different player.

While Travis was a bruiser in the paint, Sestina likes to stretch the defense and is a deadeye from three point range. He will open up an entirely different style of offense for the Cats.

Nate describes himself as the “team dad” but don’t let that fool you. He’s been able to connect with the younger players on their level and he’s having a blast during his one season at Kentucky.

Calipari has been pleased with Sestina thus far and has said that he’s much better than anticipated. Sestina is constantly talking on defense, something that Cal preaches from day one. He talks so much that sometimes Cal has to pull him back so that the other players notice how quiet they are when Nate isn’t doing the talking.

If EJ Montgomery and Nick RIchards take the next step and become the top-ranked players that they were as recruits, then the perfect scenario would be for Sestina to come off the bench in relief for them.

While Nate’s offense, defense, and rebounding will be just fine for Power 5 basketball, he doesn’t have the elite athleticism of Montgomery or Richards. He also lacks their potential shot blocking.

There will be some games where Calipari will have to have Sestina get 30+ minutes for his offense. His unique ability to stretch the game from the post reminds me of what PJ Washington was able to do last season for Kentucky.

Do I think Sestina will be as good as PJ was? No but PJ was able to hit threes and Sestina brings that same skill to the table.

Sestina’s importance will manifest the most in March. He’s offensively gifted, he has experience, and he shoots 80% from the free throw line so Calipari will be able to leave him in the game at crunch time.

If Kentucky’s two exhibition games are any indicator, Sestina may very well be Kentucky’s best big man and will challenge for the right to be called the Wildcats’ best overall player. He averaged 12 points and nine boards vs. Georgetown College and Kentucky State while looking miles ahead of EJ, so Sestina looked primed to have a much bigger role with this team that we anticipated in the preseason.

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