Kentucky men’s basketball forward Nate Sestina is expected to miss approximately four weeks after fracturing his left wrist in practice on Tuesday. He was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday morning.
“We haven’t been a full team in over a month,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “Nate goes to shoot a layup, it gets blocked, he falls back, goes to stop himself (and) breaks his wrist/hand. He’s out … approximately four weeks. Now we regroup. Next man up.”
Sestina, a graduate transfer from Bucknell, has played a key part in Kentucky’s 5-1 start, providing valuable on-court production, leadership and experience.
The 6-foot-9, 234-pound forward is averaging 7.3 points and 7.2 rebounds, including a double-double (12 points and 11 rebounds) vs. Eastern Kentucky and a critical 3-pointer in the second half of the win over then-No. 1/1 Michigan State.
Sestina has played 30 or more minutes in four of six games, an especially important contribution with a thin front court that was magnified with the three-game game absence of forward EJ Montgomery (Eastern Kentucky, Evansville and Utah Valley games).
Last season, his first as a starter at Bucknell, Sestina averaged 15.8 points, a team-high 8.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. He shot 53.6% from the floor and made 41 3-pointers at a 38.0% clip. The All-Patriot Second Team selection ranked sixth in the league in scoring and second in rebounding.
Sestina scored in double figures in 27 of 31 games and posted 11 double-doubles last season. He scored 20 or more points in 10 games, including his final two games that led to Patriot League All-Tournament Team honors.
Sestina is the third graduate transfer under Calipari, joining Reid Travis from last season and Julius Mays in 2012-13. He transferred to UK to pursue a master’s degree after graduating with his undergraduate degree in geography from Bucknell.
Kentucky’s depth has been tested by a rash of injuries this season. Including freshman Dontaie Allen and redshirt freshman Zan Payne, who are working their way back from previous injuries, Sestina marks the eighth different Wildcat to suffer an injury this season.
Montgomery was out three games with a right ankle injury, sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley missed the Utah Valley game with a chest injury, sophomore guard Ashton Hagans has played through a lower right leg injury, junior forward Nick Richards missed the final exhibition game with a sprained left ankle, and freshman forward Kahlil Whitney dislocated his left pinky near the end of the Utah Valley game (he did not miss a game).
Despite the injuries, UK is among the best defensive teams in the country statistically, having held five of six opponents to less than 40% shooting. Included in the Wildcats’ five victories this season was the victory over the top-ranked Spartans to start the season, one of just three games the Wildcats have played with at least nine full-time basketball scholarship players.
“We need our fans now more than ever,” Calipari said. “Coming to games, cheering, picking these kids up. They go on a run that they don’t play well, cheer them (and) get them going. So we’re shorthanded again and your coach is saying, ‘Bring it. Let’s go.’ Remember this: There’s not one person outside the Big Blue Nation or the Commonwealth of Kentucky feeling bad for us.”
Kentucky continues its season Friday vs. UAB in Rupp Arena in the final game of the BBN Showcase. Tip is set for 7 p.m. on SEC Network.
Release by UK Athletics
(Headline Photo from Chet White, UK Athletics)