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Kenny Payne: “We need Nate Sestina to play better”

On Saturday night against Auburn, Kentucky forward Nate Sestina was the lone player on the roster without a basket, finishing the loss with zero points on 0-3 shooting to go with just one rebound and one block in 18 minutes.

To make matters worse, the Bucknell graduate transfer also finished with a team-low plus-minus of minus-21, meaning the Tigers outscored the Wildcats by a whopping 21 points in the 18 minutes he saw action.

While the advanced numbers seem to indicate Sestina has been solid on the floor this season – he has the highest offensive rating (117.6 points scored/produced per 100 possessions) and lowest defensive rating (94.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) of his five-year career – but it’s no secret his play, especially on defense, has left plenty to be desired in recent weeks.

This afternoon during his pregame press conference to preview Mississippi State, Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne came out rather bluntly to describe Sestina’s play over the last several games and what they need from the 6-foot-9 big man moving forward.

“We need Nate Sestina to play better,” Payne said matter-of-factly.

How does he do that? The UK assistant said the Emporium, PA native simply needs to “relax and play hard,” which is exactly what he did at Bucknell before transferring to Kentucky this year.

“We need him to relax and play hard,” Payne said. “The things that he did before he got here – the fight, the toughness, the energy, the effort to get things done – we need that.”

While he’s not the first or second option in the frontcourt, Payne said this team desperately needs Sestina to play well if they want to reach their goals to close out the season.

“This team sorely needs him. And he’s trying,” Payne said. “We need more.”

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

6 Comments for Kenny Payne: “We need Nate Sestina to play better”

  1. catfan312
    7:31 pm February 3, 2020 Permalink

    Can you imagine if this team had EJ, Nate and Keion and or JJ play up to their capabilities along with the other four starters doing what they know they should be doing every game? Not the most overwhelming individual talent as in past years but this could be a really strong TEAM and it comes down to two, three and four guys not showing up and then it’s disaster time

  2. JT55
    8:02 pm February 3, 2020 Permalink

    This team has a razor thin margin of error. There’s just alot of holes. Cals recruiting misses are evident this year.

  3. Righteous1
    8:22 pm February 3, 2020 Permalink

    In Cal We Trust, It’s NBA or Bust!

  4. EdC
    8:36 pm February 3, 2020 Permalink

    I agree they do need Nate to play better but think about that statement. This is a guy that wasn’t even a 1 Star coming out of High School. Seriously go try to find anything about him. I found something on 247 sports and all it had was basically height, weight and position.

  5. bluebew
    8:51 pm February 3, 2020 Permalink

    Like JT says….margin of error is too thin. I don’t expect more from Nate….he’s like early Derek Willis….no defense and spotty performance shooting – some nights good, some nights not. I’m not giving him a bad time. He’s a good guy giving his all. But his capabilities are limited. EJ on the other hand….Keion…..those guys should be showing up more. Without a reliable 4, and a dicey 3 from game to game, when we have trouble with Nick or the 1 or 2 (like at Auburn)…’s going to be most likely a L against strong competition. Not even knocking Cal, per se, but this team needed more front court depth. Nick has transformed very nicely. But it’s not enough without anything at the 4, and very, very inconsistent 3….that is a recipe for a first weekend exit, or maybe a second Thursday/Friday exit. And, again, not blaming the kids. They’re all trying so hard, I’m sure. But this is who we are. Thin. Razor thin.

  6. kjd
    6:08 am February 4, 2020 Permalink

    Truth, Sestina is limited athletically. Not much more you’re going to get from him.