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Bob Dixon

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Middlesboro, KY 40965


Go Big Blue!

JAMIE H. VAUGHT: Who is new Kentucky Wildcat Nate Sestina?

Nate Sestina, a graduate transfer from Bucknell University, is one of UK’s new faces for the 2019-20 basketball team.

But who is Sestina? I wanted to know more about his background. So I did some research by googling, and found some interesting articles and tidbits.

Nate Sestina (Photo by Bucknell Athletics)

If you are a hoops junkie, you would already know something about the 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward. He can impact the game on the frontline and perimeter, and is expected to contribute immediately to the youthful Wildcats next season with his valuable experience. A member of the All-Patriot League second team in his first season as a starter, Sestina averaged 15.8 points per game and a team-high 8.5 rebounds in leading Bucknell to a 21-12 mark this past winter, coming up one game short of third straight NCAA tournament trip.

A versatile big man who also hit 41 of 108 three-pointers for 38 percent, Sestina will be eligible to play at Kentucky after graduating from Bucknell with his undergraduate degree in geography in mid-May.

He said his professors at Bucknell are proud of his academics. “I’m not just going for basketball. I’m going to get a graduate degree and my professors are very, very proud,” said Sestina in a story by Kurt Ritzman in Pennsylvania’s The Daily Item.

The new Wildcat, who comes from a very small rural town called Emporium in Pennsylvania, commented he is thinking about a master’s degree in environmental science, community leadership or education.

Before he announced his commitment to UK on Twitter in early April, Sestina and his parents, Donald and Rachelle Sestina, made a trip to Lexington, meeting numerous UK folks, and they liked what they saw on campus. He also had a fruitful discussion with former Wildcat standout Reid Travis, who played this past season as a graduate transfer.

“Reid was clear and super honest about what it would be like for me,” Sestina said in a recent story by Nate Steis in Pennsylvania-based “He told me you’re going to be the biggest leader and also you’re going to have to work your tail off to help this team win. It is challenging, but I know you can fill this role.”

And it didn’t hurt that Kentucky coach John Calipari and Sestina have similar Pennsylvania roots.

The youngest of five siblings, two of whom are Marines, Sestina comes from a very athletic family. As mentioned in his biography on Bucknell’s official athletics website, he was the first NCAA Division I player from Cameron County High School since the 1970s. During his prep senior year, he averaged 22 points and 14 rebounds per game along with 26 double-doubles (out of 28 games), earning first team all-state, all-district and all-league honors He also played AAU hoops at a national level.

According to an October article by Nate Steis in, Sestina -- who will turn 22 on May 12 -- is thankful for his family’s strong support. His dad once served as the athletics director at Cameron County High and let his kids into the gym and weight room.

“I am fortunate that my Dad and the administration at Cameron County High School got along so well,” Sestina was quoted as saying in “My Dad could let me in the gym anytime I wanted. We lived just a few minutes away from the school and both of these things helped me get the extra work in easily. I gave up a lot of potential social time in high school and spent it in the gym. I would not have it any other way because it has opened a lot of doors for me as a result.

“My parents put 130,000 miles on a car from my sophomore year of high school to my freshman year of college. This is a number that just showcases their belief and love for me. They have been there for absolutely everything, and I could not have been blessed with better parents.”

Currently, his father is listed as social studies faculty member at Cameron County High, according to the school’s website. His mother is also a faculty/staff member at an elementary school in Cameron County School District.

In a 2018 article by Anthony Sambrotto of The Bradford Era in Pennsylvania, Sestina, with his very small town upbringing, admits he was somewhat awestruck in bigtime college hoops atmosphere. During his junior year at Bucknell, the Bison faced teams like Arkansas, North Carolina and Maryland in non-league games before facing Coach Tom Izzo’s Michigan State club in the NCAA Tournament.

“There were more people there than the seven surrounding counties where I grew up,” Sestina joked about a crowd of over 20,000 at Detroit which saw the Spartans knocked out No. 14-seed Bucknell 82-78 in the Big Dance.

“I’m used to being from a small town and having the small newspapers covering you and then all of a sudden you have CBS reporters talking about you or guys on ESPN talking about you,” added Sestina in The Bradford Era. “I had Wally Szczerbiak talking about me at halftime (of the Spartans game). I think that's awesome.”

After a great learning experience at Bucknell, it sounds like he is ready for the bright lights in Lexington.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor and founder of magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at


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