Sestina to join Kentucky basketball as a graduate transfer


Nate Sestina ’19 recently announced that he will be using a fifth year of eligibility at Kentucky University.

Justin Schaumberger, Senior Writer

Bison men’s basketball forward Nate Sestina ’19 announced on Twitter on April 4 that he has committed to play his final year of college basketball at the University of Kentucky as a graduate transfer. After redshirting his first year as a Bison due to shoulder surgery, Sestina will graduate in May 2019 with a B.A. in geography and leave campus with one more year of NCAA eligibility.


Fresh off a season posting averages of 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting 38 percent from beyond the three-point line, the 6’9” Sestina was “one of the most sought-after graduate transfers available this spring,” ESPN’s Jeff Borzello said.


“Looking back at my game, I saw some flaws. I wasn’t moving my feet well enough laterally and I wanted to be more confident in my game overall,” Sestina said regarding his decision to play his final year of college eligibility.


This is a major accomplishment for Sestina, who has worked hard throughout his career to reach his current high-caliber level of play. Only a one-year starter for the Bison, Sestina waited patiently behind the likes of Zach Thomas ’18 and Nana Foulland ’18 before he finally got the opportunity to start in his 2018-2019 senior season.


Despite playing a less prominent role on the team for his first three seasons as a Bison, Sestina was always ready to fill in any role that was required of him. Take for instance the Patriot League tournament in 2018; despite only playing 15 minutes per game the entire season, Sestina made the most of his playoff minutes, contributing 19.3 points and 9.3 rebounds on average in the three postseason games.


In Lexington, Sestina will be asked to fill a different role than he did during his senior year with the Bison. With Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington, and Tyler Herro almost certainly declaring for the NBA Draft, Sestina will serve as a veteran presence on a relatively young team. Kentucky will have reinforcements on the way with a recruiting class ranked number two in the nation by 247sports, headed by ESPN’s number nine recruit, Kahlil Whitney.


“My ability to stretch the floor and shoot is going to help and blend with theirs,” Sestina said. “I’m going to be the oldest guy on the team, so it’s a must that I help lead the younger guys and guide them in the right direction during games and practice.”


Sestina will be stepping into the role previously held by Reid Travis, another graduate transfer. Travis transferred to Kentucky from Stanford and averaged an impressive 11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds while being a strong defensive presence for the Wildcats. Close acquaintances to Sestina believe that there is no one better suited for this role.


“Nate has a great head on his shoulders. He is smart and humble so he will be just fine,” Bison head coach Nathan Davis said.


“Even dating back to high school, Nate’s always been a terrific teammate,” Jon Songer, Sestina’s high school basketball coach, said in an article from Kentucky Sports. “In high school, he probably could’ve scored 40 or 50 points a game, but it was never about that. It was always about, ‘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.”


In addition to playing with young and upcoming stars, Sestina will also get the chance to play under the tutelage of one of the greatest college coaches of all time, John Calipari. Since Calipari took over the men’s basketball program at Kentucky in 2009, the Wildcats have had seven Sweet 16 appearances, reached four Final Fours, and played in the national championship game two times, winning one title.


“Kentucky grants me the opportunity to grow and develop as a player and also having the opportunity to make the NCAA tournament one last time,” Sestina said. “It is also an opportunity to continue my studies and pursue a masters degree, as well.”


At Kentucky, a member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Sestina will face a new level of competition which will test him night in and night out. However, his Bison teammates believe he will be ready to handle the pressure of playing in a Wildcat uniform and against the stronger competition by bringing a new style to the conference.


“Nate will bring a unique skill set to the SEC,” teammate Kimbal Mackenzie ’19 said. “Bigs in that conference are known for their contribution in the paint, which Nate will still have, but he has the versatility to spread teams out, as he is a very good shooter.”


“He’ll stretch athletic big men away from the rim with his ability to shoot from deep, which opens up the lane for himself and his teammates. They definitely won’t struggle to score with him on the court,” Jimmy Sotos ’21 said.


The Bison will certainly miss Sestina, who finished the 2018-19 season as a member of the Second Team All-Patriot League and All-District 13 Second Team. Sestina will look to continue his success and bring his winning attitude and spirit to Kentucky while playing in a different shade of blue next season.


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