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What does Nate Sestina’s commitment mean for Kentucky?



As Kentucky senior Reid Travis packs his bags and explores his professional basketball options, the Wildcats have found his replacement in the post in the form of yet another graduate transfer.

Bucknell senior forward Nate Sestina has committed to Kentucky, giving the Cats their fifth pledge and/or signee for the class of 2019. And with the Wildcats so desperately needing help in the frontcourt next season, it’s certainly a big one.

Let’s take a look at this decision and what it means for the program from all angles.

Who is Nate Sestina?

A 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward out of Emporium, Pa., Sestina averaged 15.8 points (53.6 percent shooting, 38 percent from three, 80.8 percent from the free throw line), 8.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game last year for the Bison. The graduate transfer scored in double figures in 27 of his 31 games last season and had 11 double-doubles overall.

He was also named Second Team All-Patriot League and was a Patriot League All-Tournament selection this past season.

As far as his style of play is concerned, Sestina is comfortable in both face-up and back to the basket settings on offense. While he thrives on the perimeter and floating between 15 and 18 feet from the basket for catch-and-shoot opportunities, his size allows him to muscle his way into the paint for easy baskets at the rim. Like Travis, he plays beneath the basket, but is crafty enough offensively to compensate for his lack of leaping ability.

His jump shot, arguably the most fascinating aspect of his game, is a thing of beauty, with range extending several feet beyond the three-point line. He doesn’t create his own shot much, but he does work hard off the ball to find open shots for himself, which he converts at a solid 38% clip on five attempts per game. At Kentucky, I could definitely see him being a 41% shooter or so from deep, similar to PJ Washington (42.3%) this past season, but on more attempts.

Outside of scoring, he’s extremely active on the glass, fighting for loose balls down low on offense and converting that into second chance opportunities. Sestina also runs the floor fairly well, has pretty solid passing vision and ability, and possesses a strong basketball IQ.

Last season at Bucknell, Sestina had an overall offensive rating of 114.7 (points scored per 100 possessions) and a defensive rating of 100.3 (points allowed per 100 possessions). In other words, he was a strong offensive player and an average to slightly above-average defender.

For comparison’s sake, Reid Travis came in to Kentucky with an offensive rating of 118.1 and a defensive rating of 104.6. In his lone season in Lexington, Travis raised his offensive rating to 121.3 points per 100 possessions and lowered his defensive rating to 97.9 points allowed per 100 possessions on defense.

In terms of other weaknesses, Sestina will need to work on his lateral quickness and mobility, specifically when switched onto guards on the perimeter. He holds his own right now, but he’ll get beat at times against quicker SEC competition. Like we saw with Travis, though, he’ll make massive strides under Kenny Payne.

How did we get to this point?

As mentioned on Tuesday night in Pilgrim’s Insider Notes, there were rumblings down in Atlanta for the McDonald’s All-American Game that Kentucky was going to be hitting the graduate transfer market hard, specifically in the frontcourt.

Just a day later, Evan Daniels of 247 Sports reported that Sestina had scheduled an official visit to Kentucky for this week from Monday to Wednesday.

After doing some digging, I was told that Sestina absolutely had an agenda going into his trip to Lexington. He not only saw the way Reid Travis developed both as a player and as a person, but he also saw the way John Calipari talked about coaching him and what he meant for the program.

With just one more year of eligibility left, the 6-foot-9 forward wanted to go to a place where he could make that kind of impact both on and off the floor. When exploring his options, Kentucky was the first and main priority, and if they wanted him, he was very much open to making this process quick and easy.

The visit happened, he loved his time just as much (if not more) than he expected to, the staff thought he was a great fit, Kentucky extended the official scholarship, and the decision was finalized the very next day.

While it seemed pretty straight forward on the outside, I am a little surprised at how fast this process actually moved on Kentucky’s side of things given the magnitude of what it means for next year’s roster. With two fairly huge prospects left on the board (we’ll touch on that in a minute) and open roster spots dwindling down, I expected this visit to happen and not hear anything till at least the weekend while both sides mulled it over.

Apparently there wasn’t much to think about, as Sestina pulled the trigger as soon as he returned home (there might have even been a silent commitment yesterday afternoon). No other visits, nothing left to think about, the Bucknell graduate transfer knew Kentucky was home.


Recruiting impact

With Sestina’s addition, it obviously has a significant impact on Kentucky’s recruiting efforts moving forward to close out the class of 2019.

Before this decision, I was told Kentucky wanted one more guy to solidify their confidence in next season’s roster. Keion Brooks Jr. joining made things easier and allowed them to be a little bit more selective in the process, and considering how fast this visit came together and the ridiculous turnaround on a commitment, it’s obvious they like Sestina quite a bit.

With five-star power forward prospects Matthew Hurt and Jaden McDaniels left on the board, however. The latest whispers (as late as last week at the McDonald’s All-American Game and into the weekend) were that Hurt’s decision would come down to Kansas, Duke, and Kentucky, while McDaniels had no idea what he wanted to do, but certainly favored Kentucky and Washington.

Future Wildcats Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney told KSR they felt more confident in Hurt joining, though when talking to both uncommitted prospects, McDaniels also said he really respected how Kentucky was recruiting him and respected his space compared to some of the other schools involved. If they want to talk with him, they’ll jump in the plane and fly to Seattle to talk to him face-to-face, not badger him with phone calls and text messages.

No matter who is more likely to choose Kentucky, I’m told that even after Sestina’s commitment, the UK coaching staff can still make room for either Hurt or McDaniels if they want to join.

In fact, when asked about whether the frontcourt was complete this afternoon, one strong source within the program specifically said there was “plenty of room” to bring on more.

Does this mean Kentucky expects a surprise NBA decision? A transfer?

Or does it simply mean they’re cool with loading up the roster with talent and just seeing what happens, a la 2014-15?

It’s certainly interesting, nonetheless.

2019-20 roster

We all know PJ Washington is almost certainly entering the draft and Reid Travis is graduating. That takes care of two frontcourt spots.

We also know Keldon Johnson, projected as a mid-first round selection, is very likely to keep his name in the draft. Tyler Herro, despite having a bit of a wider draft range, is also likely to go.

From there, though, it’s a toss-up.

Ashton Hagans shouldn’t go, but his post-Auburn comments seemed to indicate he was certainly considering it. Immanuel Quickley and EJ Montgomery struggled to fit in the system at times, while Nick Richards, who certainly had his ups and downs last season, played just five minutes in Kentucky’s final two games in the NCAA Tournament. Jemarl Baker seemed to enjoy his role and can only go up from here, but you never know with him being so far from home.

All four would improve immensely playing another season at Kentucky. Judging purely off recent history, however, that doesn’t always mean it will end up that way.

If we assume Travis, Washington, Johnson, and Herro are gone, this is what the roster is looking like for next season:

PG: Ashton Hagans/Immanuel Quickley

SG: Tyrese Maxey/Jemarl Baker/Brad Calipari

SF: Kahlil Whitney/Keion Brooks Jr./Dontaie Allen

PF: Nate Sestina/(McDaniels or Hurt)

C: EJ Montgomery/Nick Richards

Thanks to Sestina’s addition, that’s a loaded roster for the Wildcats. You have shooting (Maxey, Quickley, Baker, Sestina, and Hurt or McDaniels), scoring (Brooks Jr. and Allen), and athleticism (Hagans, Whitney, Montgomery, and Richards). Defense is there, rebounding is there, versatility is there, and playmaking is there.

Not a bad problem to have at all.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

46 Comments for What does Nate Sestina’s commitment mean for Kentucky?

  1. FlySoup
    3:28 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    Just curious, why would he shoot the ball at 41% if he’s already shown he shoots at 38%? How are you calculating those extra 3%? Improved coaching? More talent/dribble drive and pass out to help open things up for him? Wouldn’t he also see better athletes and longer defenders in the sec and against our non conference competition? Just wondering

    • Jack Pilgrim
      3:36 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

      He was a high-volume shooter at Bucknell, whereas Kentucky won’t need him to be. He’ll get his open shots and he’ll likely be efficient in doing so (similar to the countless open looks PJ Washington had in the corner and at the top of the key this year). But 0/5, 2/6, 1/7, etc., nights from three won’t need to happen like they did for him before.

    • Luether
      8:17 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

      What Jack said…

  2. minton22
    3:34 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    A new type of one-and-done. Hopefully Cal can corner the market on these grad transfers like he did with the freshman one-and-dones.

    • dctawk
      3:38 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

      Climate shift. He was ahead of the game before it caught on last time, too.

    • magimae
      3:55 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

      Look for coach rat face at university puke to start copy cating

    • nocode96
      4:32 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

      “Done and One” as Clutch coined it earlier!

      4:47 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

      “Done and one” don’t forget you heard it here from clutch first

    • mashburnfan1
      10:59 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

      This has been happening for several years already, not new and not created by Cal. In fact Cal used to blast the rule because a friend of his got fired from coaching when a grad transfer left the school and they went on to have a horrible season. Plus TTU is in F4 this year with 2 grad transfers, maybe Cal copied them, oh no wait they are in the F4 with their transfers.

    • kyfrydaddy
      1:13 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      You’re such a douche bag Mashburnfan!!! You’re the worst of the worst and every time I read everyone’s comments I’m stuck in between wanting to smack some sense in you and hoping you get hit by a city bus. You pick the place….???

    • BlueByYou
      7:56 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      in this case, rare as it happens, he’s right

    • 4everUKblue
      8:43 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      mashbumKfanboy just can’t control is hatred for Cal, I’m sure it keeps Cal awake at night. You’re nothing more than a sad and lonely loser.

  3. dctawk
    3:36 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    These situations are where Cal shines. He redefined the way the game is played and how recruiting can work for all parties, while keeping UK legit and out of trouble. He’s getting good representatives that bode well for the program and putting superior product on the floor. The overall scope of work is more than most could do. UK will be in the title chatter for many more years.

    • cmills42
      2:15 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      Loaded roster? I must be missing something. I am true blue all the way, but if herro and/or keldon doesn’t comeback, barring anymore transfers or McDaniel/Hurt signing this roster will be anything but loaded. Adding Sestina definitely helps and will fit right in with floor spacing but, hagans may leave as well. He’s not going to sit behind Maxey who is the superior talent of the two and quickley may want to actually play his natural position. We all seen what nick Richards can do (unfortunately) and I’m hoping Montgomery comes back more confident and actually utilizing his skill set. We still need a dominant athletic big man. Will Richards step up? My money isn’t on it but I remain hopeful. All in all probably a top 15 roster ATM but definitely far from loaded. As always though in cal I trust.

  4. Wilfred Smith
    3:46 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    I love Allen, but wouldn’t a loaded roster allow him to redshirt, rehab, and get his knee 100% healthy while learning the system?

  5. Sentient Third Eye
    3:49 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    We can now project Coach K will begin focusing on grad transfers as his next coaching evolution.

  6. Bobbum Man
    3:55 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    I hope you guys aren’t planning on screaming bingo everytime he makes a 3

  7. Cokely53
    4:11 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    Your projected roster only has 12 people, which is including 1 of either hurt or mcdaniels. That would still put us below the scholarship max, plus brads is flexible. Scholarship space is definitely not an issue. Playing time on the other hand might be.

    • Soylentbeans
      5:58 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

      I think we always have open scholarship spots. The will there be room isn’t about scholarships.

    • Soylentbeans
      5:59 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

      I didn’t read all your comment until now. I see you already said it’s about playing time.

  8. Bruce Dickinson
    4:12 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    We definitely need Hurt or McDaniels to make a run. It would be nice to have Herro another year, but that ship will probably sail.

  9. N-UR-i
    4:17 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    There are plently of spots available. Who are the 13 people on next year’s team?

    Richards, Montgomery, Baker, Hagans, Quickly, Sestina, +4 Freshmen = 10. If Herro cones back that is 11. Still room for 2 more right?

    • N-UR-i
      4:19 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

      Brad = Preferred walk on next year btw.

  10. az1006
    4:53 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    I obviously have no inside sources or anything like that, but I just don’t see anyone transferring, for once. I’d say the most likely would be Nick Richards, but that’s just a guess. I know EJ didn’t get as much playing time as I’m sure he would have liked, but I think it just took him a while to get acclimated. Same for Quickley, who (along with Baker) I think will be big-time contributors for us in the future. Quickley genuinely seemed happy, so I would be surprised if he went anywhere.

    I Hagans returns (he’d, by age, just be a freshman next year anyway) because he desperately needs to develop more before making the jump. I hope, this year, we don’t have any surprise departures and can finally get a full roster that includes a lot of returning players.

    • makeitstop
      7:49 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      I don’t think Nick would transfer, it wouldn’t do him any good. He’d have to sit in obscurity a year, and get no closer to a draft, and not get as much exposure or coaching where he went. If he leaves, it’s to make money in the G-League and try and get 10 day or two way contracts so they can bring him up or down when the team needs a big man off the bench for 3-4 minute runs. Hagans on the other hand is looking at playing behind Maxey potentially. He isn’t 7 feet tall, he might just go unstaffed and unsigned and then he’s screwed. He’s got a tough decision and will have to hear it from the scouts… btw he’s not young, this is his natural class. He is 20 in July. Young in experience not age.

    • makeitstop
      7:50 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      That’s “undrafted” not unstaffed. He doesn’t show up in some mock drafts.

  11. StuckinLville
    5:02 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    I really like him. He seem to be comfortable driving the ball which we didnt see Reid do much of. Definitely a great addition to have. He will come in work hard and have no ego.

  12. yoshukai
    7:54 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    We shouldn’t even be listing Hurt or MaDaniels , they are both long shots at this point.

  13. KYCat4EVER
    7:55 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    What does it mean?

    Listen… welcome To UK son! You will never play for a more storied program, best fan base in the entire country, best facilities in all college basketball, and Rupp Areana? Well, that speaks for itself by who it was named after: Rupp is responsible for ALL of UKs Basketball richness and success…

    Now everything and everyone else? Is average!


    • 4everUKblue
      8:51 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      Rupp is dead in case you didn’t know KYCat, I love the fact that Cal causes you so much misery. You’re a real tool.

  14. Glock
    9:19 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    Fill up the roster with the maximum allowed. Brad does not need a scholarship…give it to someone that can compete for playing time. Got plenty of chairs on the bench might as well put players in them.

    11:16 pm April 4, 2019 Permalink

    He is a ball player. He is going to be a nice one!

  16. plumloopy
    1:04 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

    It doesn’t feel right to compare Travis, the reigning Player of the Year in the Pac-10 to Sestina, a second team selection in the Patriot League. I’m hoping there is something really special that Cal sees in him because it feels closer to a Todd Svoboda transfer than a Reid Travis transfer. If Herro and Johnson make the jump, the 2019-2020 team is going to feel like a rebuilding year.

    • SoCalCat
      9:18 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      Wholeheartedly agree. I was doubtful about Travis prior to the season, although he improved and brought toughness. I’m guessing Cal liked the work ethic and is hoping that will rub off, but that will only work if he raises his game.

  17. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    1:24 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

    Don’t compare him to PJ, he can actually hit free throws.
    Also on the whole it’s a lower league thing look how comfortable he looked playing against D1 competitors and that’s with him looking like a elite weight program could put him on a whole different level.

    • Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
      1:26 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      On another note he looks for the open 3 instead of trying to force it like our bugs had a tendency to do in big games.

    • MrPioneer
      8:44 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      You’re right, we shouldn’t compare him to PJ. PJ is an All-American.

  18. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    1:27 am April 5, 2019 Permalink


  19. dballrb
    3:41 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

    I see a new way of getting upperclassmen +development, have gotten into shape b4 they play a game for us..Experienced kids to read on the floor..Etc.. .I like my team.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!°`~\|{}€£¥?°•??????????¤??¡¿

  20. CahillsCrossingNT
    5:07 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

    Whatever it is, no more Final Fours are on the horizon. Calipari is going this route because he’s striking out with too many elite high school players.

    • catsarerunnin
      6:26 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      You’ll live. Shine up your multiple participation trophies to take your mind off things.

    • makeitstop
      7:56 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      Like his #2 recruiting class today? And isn’t this what everybody said they wanted: a) adjusting as the (recruiting) game changes and b) having more veteran players. People are unbelievable on here sometime.

    • 4everUKblue
      8:52 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      Some people just have no desire to be happy about anything, let them suffer! Hahaha!

  21. 4everUKblue
    8:56 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

    Welcome to the BBN Nate! I hope you never read KSR comments, but if you do, be warned that 1% of our fanbase is made up of uneducated [email protected]@sses who will always find something to complain about no matter what. Ignore those idiots.

    • makeitstop
      9:27 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

      Truly. Half of the antagonists are trolls who support other teams. The other half u can’t please. If u flew them to Bermuda on a G-5 they’d complain they didn’t get frequent flyer miles. A permanent class of sulkers.

  22. mothandras
    9:25 am April 5, 2019 Permalink

    Ouch.. really weak at SG, and Center. Like NIT weak. Baker is a joke.. and was a liability in the tourney. Hopefully there are some potentials out there to fill in the gaps.