By LARRY VAUGHT
Brad Calipari may deserve the biggest assist of his Kentucky basketball career with the arrival of Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina.
For the last two summers, Brad Calipari has played for Global Sports Academy, first on a trip to Croatia in 2017 and then for a tour of Belgium, Germany and Holland in 2018. His coach both times was Bucknell assistant coach Joe Meehan. That paid off when Sestina left Meehan know he was considering a transfer.
“I had some contact with Coach Cal from taking his son, Brad, overseas on a select team the last two summers so I figured I would reach out to see if they were in need of Nate’s position as well as interested in his level of talent,” Meehan said.
Not long after Meehan reached out to Kentucky coach John Calipari, the UK coach talked with Sestina. That started the process that got Sestina to UK for his final collegiate season much quicker than even Meehan imagined.
“I would say it was a little surprising because they (Kentucky) were in the midst of preparing for the NCAA tourney, so I was not expecting everything to happen so quickly,” Meehan said.
The Bucknell assistant says Kentucky fans are going to appreciate Sestina, who averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and earned Second Team All-Patriot League honors last season when he got a chance to play regularly.
“He is probably the most genuine player I have coached on and off the court,” Meehan said. “The BBN is going to love his personality.
“On the court, he will bring a passion to the game and a work ethic that will hopefully help pave the way for some of the newcomers they have coming in.”
Meehan isn’t going to miss Sestina for a lot more than just his scoring and rebounding.
“Nate would come to my office daily to say hi or watch film,” Meehan said. “Always has a smile on his face and some outdated jokes ready to go.”
Sestina, who will turn 22 soon, could be the perfect player to fill the role Reid Travis had this year of having “mature” conversation with Calipari as well as providing an inside presence. Maybe not the same consistent impact that Travis did, but certainly a veteran presence that UK can certainly use next year — and a genuinely good guy to go along with that.