By LARRY VAUGHT
Nate Sestina was redshirted his freshman year at Bucknell due to an injury and then played behind Zach Thomas and Nana Foulland for two years before averaging 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season while shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 38 percent (41 of 108) from 3-point range. He scored in double figures in 27 of 31 games.
Now he’s transferred to UK for his final season of eligibility as a graduate transfer.
“What impressed me the most about Nate over his time at Bucknell has been his patience and his diligence. He has been steadily on his grind, working hard to achieve great things, yet he remained patient waiting for his time to showcase the hard work he put in,” former Bucknell teammate Matt O’Reilly said.
“He never got down or pouted playing behind two amazing players in Zach Thomas and Nana Foulland, just remained patient and worked and ultimately you can see the ways it worked out for him. That’s very rare in a guy as gifted and hard working as Nate is.”
That’s why Sestina’s teammate doesn’t say his decision to commit to Kentucky as much as a transfer from Bucknell as it is a “decision to set himself up for success” in the future.
“He didn’t choose to leave Bucknell. He loves the school and our teammates unconditionally and every player and coach that he’s been around in his time here understands that,” O’Reilly said. “He chose to take a chance on himself, knowing he’s given everything he had to Bucknell for four amazing years.
“It is always surprising to see someone go to Kentucky. However, he deserves it, and any real fan of Bucknell knows that!”
Kentucky’s roster again will be in flux. Reid Travis, last year’s graduate transfer, has graduated. Sophomore PJ Washington along with freshmen Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro have left for the NBA. Sophomore Jemarl Baker is transferring. Kentucky has five freshmen coming in along with Sestina to go with returning players Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery.
“Sesti has learned a lot from some incredible leaders here at Bucknell and is ready and able to take on that same role at Kentucky,” O’Reilly said.
Some wonder exactly how he will fit in at UK after playing in the Patriot League. Travis was a two-time all-conference selection at Stanford. Sestina was a second team all-conference pick last year.
O’Reilly says not to worry because Sestina will be just fine.
“I think that Nate provides coach Cal with a talent that is quite different from what Kentucky has seen recently. He is tall, unexpectedly strong and no doubt a front court player. However, his ability to really stretch the floor while also rebounding at an extremely high level will greatly benefit Kentucky, as coach Cal knows,” O’Reilly said.
“He will also be a huge addition in regards to experience and leadership. Seeing the ways in which Travis was a key for this year’s Kentucky team, Nate is a great fit to continue that trend. He is experienced, wants to win, loves his teammates and works extremely hard. His presence in a locker room full of young lottery talent is extremely valuable.”
Travis had to adjust to the enormous spotlight that is one Kentucky basketball daily. O’Reilly knows Sestina will have some of the same adjustments to make after playing at Bucknell and not being highly recruited out of high school.
“Coming from a tiny town, moving towards a small school in Bucknell, Nate had to make a number of adjustments. These adjustments will be far greater as he moves to Kentucky,” O’Reilly said. “However, Nate has matured steadily every year that I’ve known him, and he has the drive and support system to be successful regardless of the circumstance.”