UK Recruiting

Calipari on Kentucky basketball’s newest recruit: ‘He’s where the game is going’

Justus: Kentucky a place where you get better and play around great players

Kentucky basketball assistant Joel Justus offers a recruiting pitch of sorts, saying that Kentucky isn't just for the one-and-done type players.
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Kentucky basketball assistant Joel Justus offers a recruiting pitch of sorts, saying that Kentucky isn't just for the one-and-done type players.

UK announced the addition of graduate transfer Nate Sestina on Thursday, officially welcoming the veteran post player to the Wildcats basketball program on the second day of the spring signing period.

Sestina — a 6-foot-9, 245-pound post player from Emporium, Pa. — averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for Bucknell this past season and is on track to graduate next month with a degree in geography. ESPN recently named him the No. 3 graduate transfer for this off-season recruiting cycle, and he’s expected to have an immediate impact at Kentucky.

He follows Reid Travis as the second graduate transfer in as many seasons at UK.

“I think everyone knows my stance on graduate transfers. We are only going to take someone if it’s going to help both the kid and our program,” UK Coach John Calipari said in a release. “I’m not going to take someone if they’re not going to have an impact. After seeing what Reid’s move did for him this past season and how he helped our program, I told our staff if there are other kids in his situation that could benefit, let’s take a look at them.

“Nate falls into that scenario in that he’s achieved what he set out to do and now wants to take this thing to the next level. I’m excited to get to work with him because he’s where the game is going. He has the ability to play in the post but he can stretch you out, which gives us the ability to play a little different and open things up more. He’s a great kid from a great family who wanted this challenge.”

Sestina visited Lexington the day after the Wildcats’ season-ending loss to Auburn in the NCAA Tournament, and he announced his commitment to UK later that week. Calipari was on the lookout for frontcourt help with the departure of Travis and sophomore PJ Washington, who has decided to keep his name in this year’s NBA Draft.

Travis and Washington combined to average 26.4 points and 14.7 rebounds per game this past season.

“It’s been an amazing ride from Emporium to Bucknell and everywhere in between, and it’s surreal to think my college basketball career isn’t over yet,” Sestina said. “I’m humbled to get started with Kentucky. I want to thank God, my family, my coaches, my teammates and John Calipari for this opportunity.”

Sestina could be joined in UK’s frontcourt by Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery, who have not yet confirmed their off-season plans but are not currently ranked among the top 100 prospects for this year’s draft.

The Cats are also considering more additions to next season’s roster. Virginia Tech star Kerry Blackshear Jr. — a 6-10, 250-pound power forward and the No. 1 graduate transfer in ESPN’s rankings — has emerged as a possible target for Kentucky.

For now, Sestina is one of five new faces for UK basketball. The Cats signed five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey and Kentucky Mr. Basketball Dontaie Allen in the fall. Five-star wing Keion Brooks also signed with UK on Thursday, and fellow five-star wing Kahlil Whitney will officially sign with Kentucky on May 3.