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What new grad transfer Nate Sestina brings to UK

The 6-9 big man will bring leadership and some much needed three-point shooting.

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

We found out early Tuesday afternoon that the Kentucky Wildcats had secured a commitment from Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina.

Sestina visited Lexington from Monday through Wednesday, his only visit, and committed shortly thereafter.

The 6-9, 245-pound power forward averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the Bison last season. He also shot 38 percent from three and 81.8 percent from the foul line.

Although John Calipari was originally against taking grad transfers, Reid Travis changed his mind. And there’s no doubt Travis’ success led Kentucky to pursue Sestina, and vice versa.

Sestina comes from a small town in Pennsylvania. Likely one you’ve never heard of: Emporium. With a population of less than 2,000 people, a small-town guy reveled at the opportunity to play for the best college basketball program in history, as did everyone else around him.

“When we heard it was Kentucky, we got extremely excited,” Jon Songer, Sestina’s high school coach at Cameron County, told Ben Roberts of the Herald Leader. “You think of Kentucky and you think of Coach Calipari and Rick Pitino and national championships. All those former players — you can just rattle off NBA player after NBA player. For Nate to have the opportunity to be in that same type of environment with those guys, it’s just awesome. It’s surreal. And I’m just so excited for him.”

Sestina is a big addition for next year’s squad. Kentucky is low on frontcourt options for next season as Reid Travis will graduate and PJ Washington is headed to the NBA Draft. That leaves Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery, assuming they stick around, and incoming freshman Keion Brooks, who’s more of a wing.

However, he won’t be Reid Travis down on the block, bullying opponents into submission.

“If Kentucky wants to spread the floor, I think that can be dangerous,” Songer said. “He has a really sweet shot, and that’s going to be something that teams are really going to have to game plan for. He’s really worked hard on his body. He’s in tremendous shape. He’s going to be great on the boards. ... And then, toward the end of the game, he’s a tremendous free throw shooter.”

But it’s not all about him. The main point of emphasis in bringing in guys like Travis and Sestina is the grown-man mentality and leadership they bring to the court. Songer says Nate’s philosophy is, “How can the team be better? What can I do for the team to have the most success?

“And when he gets to Kentucky, there are going to be some 18-year-old, 19-year-old McDonald’s All-Americans, and I think those guys are going to look up to him. And I think he’s going to be a terrific role model for those guys.”

Sounds like a perfect fit for a team full of on-and-dones. We saw the impact it had this year with Reid. But remember, Travis was first team All-PAC 12. Sestina was second team All-Patriot League. Set your expectations accordingly. But also remember that he’s here to lead by example in whatever way he can and add some much needed depth and leadership to a young Kentucky team.