EMPORIUM — The Cameron County Red Raiders boys basketball team has been blessed with several great players over the last decade. Of these Cameron County graduates, two big men have gone on to play college basketball.
Most recently, former Bucknell Bison and current Kentucky Wildcat Nate Sestina has paved the way area kids who have big time hoop dreams. However, who was it that showed Nate Sestina the way to improve himself as a player?
While many coaches, scouts and others have helped Nate in his basketball journey, nobody may have been more instrumental than his older brother Andrew Sestina.
Andrew graduated from Cameron County in 2012 before heading to Meadville to attend Allegheny College to continue his education while also playing basketball for the Gators.
For a brief time, brothers Andrew and Nate suited up side by side in varsity basketball action when Andrew was a senior and Nate just a freshman.
Sestina expressed gratitude about living in Emporium.
“Growing up in Emporium played a great role in who I am today and who I became as an athlete. The tight knit community always supported one another and it made for a unique experience growing up,” he said. “It allowed me to be close with my family and they showed me how to conduct myself as a person and athlete. They taught me the importance of hard work and earning what you get in anything that is being pursued.”
While Sestina was a college hooper in one of Division III’s toughest conferences the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), he admits that throughout his basketball career on every team, he was never the stud or star player.
“I never considered myself the star of any team. I knew my role on each of my teams from travel to high school, and even college basketball,” Sestina said. “I wanted to do the things I could to help the team win. At the end of the day, team success was much more important than individual accolades or glory. Looking back on my career, I have no regrets with the roles I accepted and how I tried my hardest to help any team I was on be successful.”
In 59 career games over four seasons, Sestina averaged 2.7 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.
He fully embraced his role as a bench player and spot starting big man with three point range. For his college career, Sestina shot 37.5 percent from three. Standing at 6’7”, Sestina proved to be a different type of matchup for opposing forwards and centers.
“I really worked on my range in college,” Sestina said. “I played in a system as a senior that allowed me to take advantage of my shooting ability as a big man. I love being a stretch player and to this day, I still use my shooting ability to my advantage… Being a stretch player opens up an offense in basketball well.”
During his high school days, Sestina was a three-time letter winner in basketball as well as a North Tier League (NTL) First Team All-Star. He was also selected to play in the Pennsylvania vs. Maryland high school All-Star basketball game.
He was also active in his school serving as a Student Council president while also being selected to the high honor roll. Grades like these allowed him the opportunity to both enroll and play basketball at a school like Allegheny College that maintains high academic expectations for all of its students.
At Allegheny, Sestina studied history and philosophy and initially planned on continuing his education after his bachelor's degree. While Sestina has done that, it was not by attending graduate school, but rather by enlisting as a United States Marine Corps.
During the middle of his college career, a commercial during a Los Angeles Clippers basketball game sparked his interest. He paid close attention to the commercial and decided that he could see himself working in the armed forces.
Not long after, he called his older brother Jason, who is also in the military, to help him begin the necessary steps to be commissioned.
“From that commercial, I knew I wanted to be an officer in the Marines. Once I commit to something, I am going to give it all I have. I knew being a Marine was my calling,” he said.
Becoming a Marine was no easy task for Sestina, and he admits he was not quite ready physically to enter the Marines right away.
“I was not in the right shape initially when I went for my conditioning test. They told me to come back when I could meet the pull ups, crunches, and running time standards,” he said. “Every single day, I worked out to better prepare myself for the next test.”
Commissioning still did not become that easy as he was afraid to admit to his mother Rachelle and father Donald that he would be the second sibling in the armed forces. When his mother asked him why he never submitted his application to work for Penn-Dot again in the summer, it was time to break the news that he was headed to basic training to help defend our country.
Today, Sestina resides in San Diego and was recently promoted to an officer in the United States Marines.
“I absolutely love being a Marine and helping others become successful Marines,” he said. “It is so rewarding to be able to help and lead so many others who all love this country and care so deeply for one another.”