LEXINGTON -- One thing that has become certain with the addition of Nate Sestina for the University of Kentucky -- the graduate transfer from Bucknell is a talker.
"It's nice having a veteran that talks," UK coach John Calipari said. "I mean he overtalks, he tries to get guys to talk."
During a recent practice, Calipari told Sestina to stay quiet. The effect for the rest of the team was, as Calipari said, you heard crickets.
Being a veteran who knows something about playing defense means you're going to be vocal.
"Just talking through everything you do, even if you're on the sidelines," Sestina said. "Talk through and help the other guys so they can see what it's like to communicate. Showing the difference between communicating and not communicating and the difference between if you communicate, the drill is great, and if you don't, the drill is terrible."
Sestina is the second straight big man in the middle graduate transfer for the Wildcats. The second-team All-Patriot league player follows Reid Travis, who had a major impact for the Wildcats last year as a grad transfer after being an All-Pac 12 player at Stanford. Travis was a solid starter and averaged 11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a game in his only season at UK.
With his ability to shoot the ball, rebound and defend, Sestina should have some kind of impact for the Wildcats, although he will probably work more off the bench than as a starter.
Sestina averaged 15.8 points, 8.5 rebounds a game and shot 38 percent on 108 attempts from 3-point range.
"To be honest he's like a stretch four, he shoots it, good with the ball," Calipari said. "He can play some five, but if you play him at five you're going to stretch the court with him as a five and probably post somebody else."
An assistant coach at Bucknell who knew Calipari helped pave the way for Sestina to get to Lexington. Joe Meehan sent Calipari a text saying Bucknell had a big man who could shoot some, rebound, defend, would be an energy guy. Calipari watched some video and called Sestina the next day. Calipari watched more video and wanted to get Sestina in for a visit.
When Sestina got to UK, associate coach Kenny Payne and conditioning coach Robert Harris got him going on transforming his body.
"I came in at 260, I was really heavy," Sestina said. "This summer was probably the hardest summer I had, staying focused, staying on that diet, staying true to the workouts, paying attention to what I was eating. It helps me stay focused when we're practicing."
The team had weigh-ins over a week ago and Sestina was at 234 pounds.
Sestina also had to adjust to just being at Kentucky, a top program in college basketball, and how many former five-star recruits he was going against in practice.
"When I first got here I was a little hesitant, I wasn't used to the speed of the game here and the guys, I did question myself a little bit at the beginning of the summer, the middle of the summer," Sestina said. "Then there were a couple of practices where I made some progress, I started to get moving, my confidence kind of spiked. Having the back of my team, the coaching staff backing really helps."
Sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley played one-on-one with Sestina and Quickley helped his new teammate with lateral movement amongother things.
Sestina cooked Quickley lunch one day, and the guard now calls Sestina the best teammate he's ever had.
Foot speed and staying in front of super-fast guards in practice are at the top of Sestina's to-do list now.
"I'm not staying in front of anybody by any means yet, but being able to stay with the quicker guards, contest shots instead of letting them go and get layups," Sestina said. "In July they were blowing by me, now I can stay with them a little bit."
For an immediate return, Sestina thinks he can recognize things on the court pretty fast.
"Seeing stuff before it happens," Sestina calls one of his strengths. "As a big man, I'm a pretty good passer. I'm never going to hunt my own shot. I'll catch it off the pick and roll, and if I see somebody in the corner on the wing, I'll try to find the open guy."