Bucknell grad focused on playing in NBA

Kentucky forward Nate Sestina, right, blocks a shot by Vanderbilt forward Ejike Obinna during the second half of Kentucky’s win in February.

In a normal year, Nate Sestina would find out where his professional basketball future lies in the near future.

This sports year is not a normal one due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The NBA Draft is usually held late in June with the NBA Summer League following in July. This year, the draft isn’t scheduled until October, leaving much longer for Sestina to wait until he finds out if there is a spot for him in the NBA.

Sestina — a Bucknell graduate, who played as a graduate transfer at Kentucky last year — has been living and working out in Plymouth, California, since April.

“I’ve mostly been working by myself because I’m far away,” Sestina said. “My agent is in Oakland. One of his clients — who I played against when we played St. Mary’s — comes with his trainer to work out once or twice a week.”

Sestina is staying at a winery owned by the boss of former Bucknell teammate Matt O’Reilly. The winery has a full-court gym and a pool.

“Matt really went out on a limb for me and asked his boss if I could stay there to train,” Sestina said. “It’s perfect. It’s seriously fantastic.

“Matty O has been my best friend since Bucknell and he’s been a real blessing. He set up for me to have a place to stay and a gym. He’s a big reason whey I’m here and why hopefully I’ll be successful. I’m one of the few kids with access to a gym since quarantine started.”

Sestina said right now his focus was on playing in the NBA.

“I’m really waiting it out,” Sestina said. “I’ve had a couple of good offers to play overseas, but the opportunity to get my foot in the door with an NBA team — or on a two-way contract with a G-League team — is more appealing to me. If you get even a two-way contract, you’re right there on the fringes of the NBA.”

Sestina said he had a “bunch of good interviews” with NBA teams virtually in May. Normally, those interviews would be part of the pre-draft workout process, but the process has been forced to change this year.

“When I got out here and met my agents, we talked and they said my job was to be ready to go at all times,” Sestina said. “I have to be ready to play and in good shape. They’ll take care of everything else.”

In addition to working out his body, Sestina has also been working on his mentality.

“If you want to do it, you have to believe it,” Sestina said. “I’ve really surrounded myself with people who believe I can do it. To a lot of people it may seem far-fetched, but it’s something I believe. If you don’t believe I can do it, I don’t care about your opinion. I know that sounds blunt, but that’s what I have to do now.”

Bucknell coach Nathan Davis said there’s a lot for professional teams to like when they scout Sestina.

“He’s got good size at 6-(foot)-9, and he’s really skilled,” Davis said.

Sestina said it’s incredible to think about how far he’s come since his day as a high school star at Cameron County in Emporium.

“I was a chubby buzzcut kid from the middle of nowhere Pa.,” Sestina said. “I had no idea what it took. Four years of ups and downs at Bucknell is what prepared me for playing at Kentucky. Playing as a grad transfer at Kentucky prepared me physically and mentally for what’s next. It’s hard. You get a lot of stuff thrown at you at once.”

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