LEXINGTON, Ky. – As the Kentucky men’s basketball team bids farewell to one high-impact graduate transfer in Reid Travis, the Wildcats will welcome a new one in Bucknell transfer Nate Sestina, who has officially joined the UK roster for the 2019-20 season.
The All-Patriot Second Team selection out of Bucknell announced in early April that he would transfer to Kentucky to pursue a graduate degree. He made it official on Thursday by signing with the university.
Under NCAA graduate transfer rules, Sestina will be eligible to play for the Wildcats in the fall after graduating from Bucknell with his undergraduate degree in geography. He will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in May.
“It’s been an amazing ride from Emporium (Pennsylvania) 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.”
Although not officially a part of the 2019 signing class, Sestina join a group of newcomers that is considered on the top recruiting classes in the country. The difference with Sestina is he will provide the Wildcats with an experienced and proven scorer and rebounder.
The 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward emerged last season as a versatile big man for Bucknell who can impact the game both inside the paint and on the perimeter. In his first season as a starter, Sestina averaged 15.8 points per game, a team-high 8.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.
Sestina shot 53.6 percent but did his damage from all over the floor. He made 41 3-pointers in his senior season at a 38.0 percent clip.
“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 head coach John Calipari said. “I’m not going to take someone if they’re not going to have an impact. After seeing what Reid’s (Travis) 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 ranked sixth in the Patriot League in scoring and second in rebounding. He scored in double figures in 27 of 31 games this season and posted 11 double-doubles. He scored 20 or more points in 10 games last season, including his final two games that led to Patriot League All-Tournament honors.
He scored as many as 32 points against Holy Cross and win Patriot League Player of the Week after averaging 24.5 points and 10.5 rebounds against Army and Boston University. Sestina hauled in double-digit rebounds in 12 games, including three games with 15 or more.
Sestina is a native of Emporium, Pennsylvania, and the youngest of five siblings, two of whom are Marines.
He is the third graduate transfer under Calipari, joining Travis from last season and Julius Mays in 2012-13.
Kentucky will bid farewell to graduate transfer Reid Travis and senior Jonny David, while underclassmen PJ Washington, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson have all announced they are staying among the early entrants for the 2019 NBA Draft. Freshman guards Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley have announced they will be returning for their sophomore seasons.
FIVE-STAR PROSPECT KEION BROOKS SIGNS WITH UK
Meanwhile, Calipari continues to piece together his UK's 2019-20 roster with the signing of Keion Brooks on Thursday. Brooks, a 6-foot-7 forward from Fort Wayne, Indiana, is the third freshman to ink with the Wildcats, joining guards Tyrese Maxey and Dontaie Allen, who signed with UK during the fall signing period.
Brooks, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound versatile forward, out of La Lumiere School in La Porte, Indiana, is the first freshman to sign a national letter of intent with the Wildcats during the spring signing period. Earlier Thursday, graduate transfer Nate Sestina also signed on to join the Wildcats in 2019-20.
A five-star prospect, Brooks will be eligible to play in the 2019-20 season.
“Keion is such a unique player because he has guard play-making ability in a 6-7, physical frame,” Calipari said. “In the last year at La Lumiere, he has physically improved leaps and bounds and is going to continue to get stronger. He helped his team to a 29-1 record, which shows you he’s a winner. We expect him to have a major impact on this program just like he did at La Lumiere. He’s a great kid from a great family and I can’t wait to get him here.”
Brooks is a versatile wing who began his career as a back-to-the-basket post player before expanding his game to include outside shooting and playmaking ability. A top-flight athlete who has great size and length, he rebounds at a high level and has the ability to guard multiple positions.
247 Sports lists him as the No. 13 overall player in the 2019 class, while Rivals has him among the top-30 prospects nationally and ESPN among the top 40. He averaged 20.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for La Lumiere, which appeared in the GEICO High School Nationals last week. In the semifinals game, Brooks made 9 of 16 shots, including two from long range, and scored a team-high 20 points. His third-quarter outburst helped La Lumiere come from behind. He added six rebounds and two assists in the one-point victory.
A USA Today All-USA Boys Basketball Honorable Mention selection, Brooks is slated to appear in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 20 in Las Vegas and the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic on April 26 in Souderton, Pennsylvania. He and Maxey will both suit up on the Away Team at the Jordan Brand Classic.
“At the end of the day, it just came down to the relationship I built with Coach Cal,” Brooks said at his announcement ceremony in March. “He’s always told me he can put me in a position to reach and achieve my dreams and my goals. When I sat down and talked to him for the last time, I felt very comfortable making my decision of going to Kentucky.”
With Brooks’ addition, Kentucky has signed 51 top-50 recruits, 42 top-25 players and 22 top-10 players (according to Rivals) in Calipari’s 11 recruiting classes at Kentucky.
In every season in the John Calipari era, the Wildcats have signed a top-three recruiting class according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, which tallies major recruiting rankings and plugs them into a formula to calculate a consensus ranking.
The spring signing period began Wednesday and lasts through May 15.