From Bucknell to Bluegrass: Sestina chooses Kentucky

Bucknell’s Nate Sestina goes up for a shot during a game this past season.

Nate Sestina walked off the court in a Bucknell uniform for the last time on March 13, disappointment etched on his face and his future uncertain.

Sestina’s senior year for the Bison ended at Colgate in the Patriot League men’s basketball tournament final.

“Losing left a sour taste in my mouth,” Sestina said Tuesday. “The opportunity to play pro basketball was there. Since I was a kid, playing Division I basketball and then playing pro basketball — especially being from the area that I’m from — was always a dream of mine.”

Sestina, from tiny Emporium in Cameron County, weighed his options, which included playing another season of college basketball. That opportunity was available because he played in only four games as a freshman before getting injured and receiving a medical redshirt.

Last Tuesday, he decided to take advantage of his eligibility and look for a place to play one more year as a graduate transfer.

“I felt I needed to improve some things,” Sestina said. “The opportunity to play college basketball for another year, make a run to the NCAA Tournament, and hopefully win some games, was very, very appealing. I want to find a place to grow and develop, but a place where I can be me and play my game — not a place where I’ll sit the bench.”

The things Sestina — a second team All-Patriot League selection as a senior in his first year starting — wants to improve are his defensive footwork, shooting consistency and playing against opponents who are bigger than him.

Sestina averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a game as a senior.

“Nate Sestina does not know how good he is,” said senior guard Kimbal Mackenzie, one of Sestina’s roommates. “We’re constantly preaching that to him. He’s a beast in many regards. He can score the ball at three levels as a 6-foot-9, 245-pound center. He’s very difficult to defend. He has a great attitude and wants to get better. He’s supremely talented.

“I have nothing but good things to say about him.”

Mackenzie’s scouting report speaks to why Sestina is a valuable asset who has drawn the interest of approximately 20 schools.

“Other than getting recruited out of high school, this has been my most humbling experience in basketball,” Sestina said. “It’s opened my eyes to what people think of me, but it’s brought me back to earth as well. It’s gratifying that they would want you, but humbling that these places want to help me achieve.”

Sestina is headed to University of Kentucky with his parents for a visit from Monday to Wednesday.

“After the visit, I’m going to sit down with my parents and the coaching staff (at Bucknell) and evaluate my options from there,” Sestina said. “The coaches have been so supportive and have been great resources.”

Kentucky is the only trip Sestina currently has planned, and he said his timetable to make a decision depends largely on the visit.

“If it goes well, clicks and I get signs from God — I’ve got to pray on it; I’ve been doing that a lot recently — it just depends on the visit,” Sestina said. “I’ll take the time I need to make the right decision.”

Sestina does not have classes Tuesday, and said next week worked best with his school schedule.

“Most of my professors have been very cool with it,” Sestina said. “I’m not just going for basketball. I’m going to get a graduate degree and my professors are very, very proud.”

Sestina will graduate from Bucknell with a degree in geography. He said he is considering a master’s degree in environmental science, community leadership or education.

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