By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — Nick Sestina didn’t know what to expect when he arrived at Kentucky, but the graduate transfer made himself right at home in his first unofficial contest at Rupp Arena Friday night.
Sestina scored 22 points to lead all scorers in the team’s annual Blue-White scrimmage that attracted 13.574 attendees. Although an experienced collegiate player, Sestina still experienced a learning curve upon arrival but settled in after getting to know his new teammates.
“(My confidence level) has grown a lot,” he said. “When I first got here, I was a little shaky and nervous about playing with these guys, whether I not I would be able to click and mesh with them, because I was coming from a system I had played in for four years. I was a little nervous if that would carry over more into what we’re trying to do here. I cut that off in the middle of the summer.”
It didn’t take long for Sestina to make an impression.
“Nate is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had at any level,” Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley said. “He’s experienced and he’s kind of like Reid Travis from last year. He talks a lot, on and off the floor and in practice. He really helps you out a lot because he has a lot of knowledge.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari was pleased with Sestina’s outing and wants the rest of his players to follow his example on the court.
“We’ve got to get a couple more guys at the level that Nate is playing at, intensity-wise. Just be more intense,” Calipari said. “Be tougher. Go after balls. We will look at rebound attempts. We are going to have some guys in the 50s, 50 percent. You didn’t even try. How you going to rebound? And they will be able to learn from this, that’s what this becomes.”
That energy, Sestina said, comes from his love for the game.
“I love playing basketball,” Sestina said. “You get to play into front of 23 to 24,000 people every game and that’s a motivator in itself and playing for UK is a motivator in itself — playing for my family and playing for myself, playing for the name on the front and the back of the jersey and playing within myself and doing my thing.”
“When you see a couple of shots go in, the rim gets bigger and your confidence level raises up,” he said. “For me and being able to put the ball in the hoop a couple of times kinda got our confidence going and seeing my teammates make plays and doing the same things — it kinda gets everybody going.”
Sestina made four shots from long range and also produced some buckets in the paint, a display of his versatility. Sestina doesn’t mind expanding his skills beyond the post.
“That’s something that I need to do here in order to play and that’s something that we work on every single day in practice,” he said. “I’m just trying to carry that over (into the games).”
In addition to his skills, Quickley has come to appreciate Sestina’s leadership.
“I don’t know if he’s 22-, 23- or 24- or 25-years-old, but he’s a great teammate,” Quickley said. “He’s always talking and trying to help. He’s really unselfish and I don’t think a lot of people get to see that. He couldn’t care less about scoring and doing all of that stuff. He just likes to (help everybody on the team).”
WHITE (80) — Whitney 12, Maxey 17, Richards 20, Quickley 9, Montgomery 6, Juzang 6, Brooks 11.
BLUE (80) — Hagans 14, Sestina 22, Juzang 6, Brooks 9, Canada 7, Quickley 16, Montgomery 6.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.