Over the past decade, Kentucky has been defined by the one-and-done, but for the second year in a row, a done-and-one is having an impact as well. Since arriving on campus this summer, Bucknell grad transfer Nate Sestina has made it his mission to become this team’s big brother, ala Reid Travis last season. So far, his teammates say he’s succeeding.
“Nate is the best teammate I’ve ever played with, and I’ve been on a lot of teams and around a lot of players like on Team USA Basketball, and Nate is the best,” Immanuel Quickley said. “On the court he is always talking, off the court he is always talking. He made me breakfast one time, and he has taken me out to lunch. Best teammate I’ve ever played with.”
If you’re curious, Sestina made Quickley shrimp and broccoli, which Quickley was planning to save for later in they day, but couldn’t resist digging into early because it’s one of his favorite meals. As one of the new — but old — guys, Sestina is more than willing to go the extra mile to establish trust with his new teammates.
“Outside of basketball, that’s where everything is, that’s where your relationships carry on to the court. Keion [Brooks], Johnny [Juzang], and I always go out to eat together. I’m always eating breakfast with Dontaie [Allen] and I’ll let Ashton [Hagans] use my car to go do something. I hang out with everybody on different parts of the day and then when we’re all out here, it’s a lot of fun.”
Keion Brooks singled Sestina out as the funniest guy on the team.
“You wouldn’t think it but Nate is hilarious. He’s been through college for four years so he has a lot of jokes and stuff to go around as far as college basketball. He’s also been a great help with him just already being through it and knowing what to expect. He’s like the big brother on the team. He’s always there helping and like I said, he’s a comedian too.”
Like a good big brother, Sestina also tries to help the younger players understand dad, aka Calipari.
“Honestly, just telling them that you really have to listen to what the coaches say, not how they say it because Coach Cal, if he’s mad, you’re going to know he’s mad. He always says he just talks loud so it’s like if you do something and you think you’re getting yelled at, you’re not. He’s just telling you what he sees and I think a lot of guys get caught up in how it’s perceived. It’s like, ‘No, no, listen to what he’s saying because he’s going to help you out. Don’t listen to how he says it.'”
On the court, Nate’s presence is being felt as well — or rather, heard.
“It’s nice having a veteran that talks. I mean he overtalks, he tries to get the guys to talk,” John Calipari said. “He can help us. But there are times that I’ll say, Nate, don’t say one word. And then it’s crickets. Because he is so dominating with his voice, sometimes they get to where, we’ll all play off of him. You can’t do that. Not in these loud arenas. Everybody. But it’s one of the things young kids have to learn. But it’s nice to have him starting us.”
“He’s crazy,” Ashton Hagans said of Nate. “We had a grad transfer last year in Reid and now we have Nate. Reid would talk to us be he was more to himself — but was really talking to us and helping us big time. Nate, he’s loud running up and down the baseline the whole practice, just talking. It’s real good because knowing that we’ve got him coming in and the way that he plays, it can help us out big time.”
Sestina chalks his chattiness up to experience.
“I try to be the loudest guy in the gym. If one of the coaches says, ‘Oh, I don’t hear anybody,’ I want them to hear me over anybody or just hear me in general. It didn’t happen my freshman year. It didn’t happen my sophomore year. Junior year, it started to click and senior year, I started to really communicate and it’s a difference maker. I think in practice too, it’s helping the younger guys out because if I’m just telling them what I’m doing, then they trust me and that trust carries over to offense and that trust carries over to other defensive possessions and we really get this thing moving and it’s really scary.”
…Like in a recent practice when the younger guys kept talking and the other team couldn’t score.
“When it starts to click, we mesh really, really well together. Coach Cal every once in a while will put us on separate teams where I’m with all the younger guys and I’m like, ‘Alright, let’s start to talking’ and the other day in practice, we had a bunch of stops in a row because everyone communicated. It’s really, really cool to see when that happens.”