Senior graduate transfer Nate Sestina is taking full advantage of his opportunity to play his final season of eligibility at the University of Kentucky.
The 6-foot-9 forward enjoyed his first game at Rupp Arena, pouring in a game-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-8 from three-point range during the annual Blue-White scrimmage Friday night.
The announced attendance for the scrimmage was 13,574, well below the new renovated capacity at Rupp Arena (somewhere around 20,500).
While there were plenty of empty seats, the place was full for a guy used to playing in front of 4,000 fans at Bucknell’s Sojka Pavilion. Only twice, two NCAA tournament appearances, had Sestina played in front of a crowd the size of Friday nights.
“I love playing basketball,” said Sestina. “You get to play in front of 20,000 people every day. That’s the motivation, playing for my family and for myself and playing for the name on the front and back of my jersey.”
Throughout the summer and preseason, John Calipari has praised Sestina for his work ethic and willingness to lead with his voice. Sestina’s voice could be heard on both ends of the floor, calling out screens defensively and shouting encouragement to his teammates on offense.
“I had three people stop me on the way in that are basketball people and said that kid works so hard and has so much energy and talks that he’s going to play himself into minutes,” said John Calipari. “And he is.”
When Sestina first arrived on campus in June, he admits he was nervous about playing with the guys at Kentucky, mostly because it was a new place with very little time to prepare. However, he’s settled in nicely and you can see he isn’t lacking confidence.
“It’s grown a lot. When I first got here it was a little shaky. I was kind of nervous about playing with these guys and being able to mesh with them.”
The player on Calipari’s roster that wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American or highly ranked recruit might be the most important guy in the locker room. Not because of his talent and ability on the floor, but the example of hard work and intensity he brings every day.
Nate Sestina talks about his first time playing a game in Rupp Arena pic.twitter.com/qNk076NsCK
— Shawn Smith (@gbbcountry) October 19, 2019