By LARRY VAUGHT
I go to Rupp Arena so often for work that I really do not appreciate what a special experience that can be for those attending a Kentucky game for the first time or for those who only get to attend games once every few years.
My grandsons, ages 7 and 11, went to Saturday’s game against Florida and before the game even started had scored a free T-shirt, foam hat, Chick-fil-A coupon and souvenir photos. I had no idea there were so many things like that on the concourse for fans.
My friend, Nick Nicholas, covered UK when he worked for the Cats Pause. He now has a marketing agency in New York but brought his wife, daughter and twins to Saturday’s game also for their first Rupp Arena experience.
“Nice to be back in Kentucky to see good friends and bring family for their first taste of UK basketball in Rupp,” Nicholas said. “My twins got their photos with Nate (Sestina) afterward. We shut down Rupp as they were turning the lights out. They soaked it all up and want to come back!”
My grandsons also got Sestina’s autograph after the game when he came back on the Rupp Arena court to meet his family. I tried to discourage them from bothering him but my youngest grandson was determined to have a picture and autograph — so he got my final game stat sheet and had Sestina autograph it. Like a true competitor, Sestina took at look at the stats before signing and my grandson was not about to lose track of that first Kentucky autograph.
Nichols’ family had the same type experience with Sestina, who had a line of young fans waiting for pictures and autographs after he first came back out to the court.
“They enjoyed meeting Nate and all his friends and family. My wife and his aunt and Nate’s high school friend’s mom hit it off. He was great with all kids who came around to get a photo/autograph,” Nichols said. “They (Nichols’ family) are all hooked and want to come back!
So do my grandsons, especially the youngest one and he will get to be at the Auburn game Saturday and he already has a postgame mission.
“Can you bring (Tyrese) Maxey out to see me after the game?” he asked.
I explained it didn’t quite work that way, which obviously did not register.
“He’s my favorite player with Nate next and then No. 5 (Immanuel Quickley). So that’s why I need to get Maxey’s autograph,” he said.