EJ Montgomery, Nate Sestina sign NBA training camp deals

Montgomery signed with the Bucks and Sestina will get a chance with the Nets

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Kentucky men’s basketball alumni EJ Montgomery and Nate Sestina will get an opportunity to play in the NBA with training camp acquisitions that were officially announced Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sestina signed a free-agent deal to join the Brooklyn Nets’ training camp roster on Tuesday, and the Bucks announced a similar deal with Montgomery on Wednesday.

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Per the respective team policies, terms of the deals were not released, but both Montgomery and Sestina will get the chance to prove themselves on NBA preseason rosters. Each team will carry 20 players into the preseason. Those rosters will eventually be cut down to 15 full-time players and 17 with an additional two players on two-way contracts.

Last week, former Kentucky men’s basketball point guard Ashton Hagans officially inked a two-way deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Former Kentucky men’s basketball player Kahlil Whitney, who left the team midway through the season, has also signed a deal to join the Charlotte Hornets in training camp.

Montgomery and Hagans were two of five underclassmen from the 2019-20 team to declare for the NBA Draft. Three of them – Tyrese Maxey (No. 21 overall to Philadelphia), Immanuel Quickley (No. 27 to New York via a trade with Oklahoma City) and Nick Richards (No. 42 to Charlotte after a trade with New Orleans) – were drafted earlier this month.

Sestina and Montgomery played important roles in the Wildcats’ 25-6 season that culminated with the program’s 49th Southeastern Conference regular-season championship and its first since 2017. The Wildcats were expected to be one of the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the postseason.

Sestina initially signed an overseas deal with Basketball Club Nizhny Novgorod in the VTB United League and the Basketball Champions League but will turn his attention to earning a spot with Brooklyn after a successful stop in Lexington as a graduate student. The former Bucknell star played a season at UK after earning his undergraduate degree with the Bison.

Embracing a leadership role on a young team, Sestina provided key minutes off the bench in addition to seven starts in 28 appearances. He missed three games in late November and early December with a fractured left wrist. Sestina averaged 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in his lone season at UK with four double-figure scoring games. He made 40.7% from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team.

Chief among his season highlights, Sestina posted nine points and six rebounds in the 18-point comeback season finale victory at Florida. He helped the Wildcats clinch the SEC championship with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the home victory vs. No. 15/15 Auburn and flirted with a double-double with 11 points and eight rebounds in the win at LSU a few games prior. His best scoring performance of the season was a 17-point outing with a season-best five 3-pointers in the game vs. No. 5/4 Ohio State in Las Vegas.

Sestina surpassed 1,000 career points with the 11 points at LSU and finished his college career with 1,037 points, 621 rebounds and 86 blocks.

Sestina starred in his last of four seasons at Bucknell in 2018-19. Averaging 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, Sestina was tabbed to the All-Patriot League Second Team and the Patriot League All-Tournament Team. The Pennsylvania native shot 53.6% from the field, 38.0% from 3-point range and 80.8% from the charity stripe. He scored in double figures in 27 of 31 contests.

In addition to his contributions on the court at Kentucky, Sestina was a member of UK’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and made the 2019-20 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll.

Montgomery appeared in 28 games for the Wildcats during his sophomore campaign and made 25 starts. He averaged 6.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, both of which were career highs. He also charted 31 total blocks, 12 steals and 17 assists.

The 6-foot-10 forward out of Fort Pierce, Florida, registered a career-high 25 points in a win against Fairleigh Dickinson where he was 12 of 16 from the floor. Montgomery also played a major role in the win over Mississippi State with 12 points and eight rebounds. At Texas A&M he put together one of his best performances of his career with eight points, 10 boards, a career-high three assists, two steals and a block.

Montgomery led the Wildcats in blocks eight times and four games with three or more rejections. He paced the team in steals in four outings and matched that with four games led in rebounding. Montgomery capped the season shooting 51.8% from the field and he hauled in 151 rebounds, both of which ranked second on the squad. His 31 swats were also the second highest on the team.

Sestina and Montgomery will try to join the nearly 60 former players John Calipari has helped play in the NBA. In 11 seasons with Calipari at the helm, Kentucky has churned out three No. 1 selections, 31 first-rounders, 21 lottery picks and 41 total players in the NBA Draft. The 41 draft picks are 14 more than the next closest school (Duke). With two first-round picks, UK has more first-round selections (41) than any other school in the NBA lottery era (since 1985).

In 28 seasons as a head coach, Calipari has coached 52 NBA Draft picks, including 37 first-round selections and four No. 1 overall picks.

Calipari’s players have entered the league NBA-ready. His players have garnered 23 All-Star selections, with Anthony Davis winning the game’s MVP honor in 2017. Derrick Rose was named MVP in 2011. Five of his players have been tabbed All-NBA (Rose, Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins), three have been named NBA Rookie of the Year (Rose, Towns and Tyreke Evans), and 14 players from Calipari’s first 10 teams at Kentucky made the NBA All-Rookie teams. UK has produced more All-NBA players, more NBA All-Rookie and more NBA All-Defensive players than any other school in the Calipari era.

Kentucky players were the story of the 2020 NBA Playoffs. Davis and Rajon Rondo (pre-Calipari) won an NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro enjoyed breakout seasons while leading the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals, and Jamal Murray set all sorts of franchise scoring records to reach the Western Conference semifinals.

Over the last few weeks, Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox have signed max contracts in their second deal in the league.

The current Wildcats will return to action Sunday at 5 p.m. vs. Georgia Tech in the Holiday Hoopsgiving in Atlanta. The game will be televised by ESPN. UK has dropped two of its first three games for the first time in Calipari’s 12 seasons.

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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas toBKennedy@wtvq.com