By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s Senior Night will provide UK fans a chance to say farewell to Nate Sestina — who only got to campus last June after arriving as a grad transfer from Bucknell — when UK hosts Tennessee.
“Nate has given us tremendous leadership, being that guy that is older, more mature — most of the time,” UK assistant coach Joel Justus said. “Nate has a spirit about him and he has enjoyed his time here. Nate, while he is serious, he is able to relate with the group, having fun and laughing.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari says he’s happy with the way the season has turned out for Sestina, who had 11 points against Auburn Saturday when UK clinched the SEC title.
“You’re talking about a kid who talked about and dreamed about coming to play at a school like Kentucky. It wasn’t the same path as a lot of our other guys, but he carved out his own journey, and my hope is it’s been everything he hoped it would be,” Calipari said.
“I know this: He has added to this program. His experience, his leadership, his communication skills on and off the court, and his ability to make shots and stretch the defense have played a big part in this team’s success. And I’m happy to see his hard work pay off the last couple of weeks. He’s playing well. What a great young man and a terrific teammate.”
Sestina has no complaints at all about his time at Kentucky.
“It’s everything that you wanted to happen for you. To play basketball at a high level, to play for a coach like Coach Cal, to have the teammates that I have and have the fans that we have and the support, it’s been everything to me, it’s been everything to my family,” Sestina said.
“They’re always texting me after games telling me that everyone in Emporium (Pennsylvania) is texting them, cheering us on. So, it’s been everything to me.”
Justus made sure to note that tonight is about more than just Sestina. It’s also the final Rupp Arena appearance for team managers Kevin Gallagher, Barrett Bouska and Will Evans. They will be honored during the pregame ceremony just like Sestina.
“When you’re putting together a program and you have a team each year, those guys are just as important as the guys that play, and a guy like Nate Sestina,” Justus said. “The way that our guys get better is in that gym, and oftentimes the guys in the gym, more than our coaches, are those managers.
“It’s a big day for those three guys and it’s an important day for our entire program to have those guys be recognized because there’s a lot of man hours that have been put in by Kevin, Barrett and Will. It’s a big loss for us, but we’re happy for them and it’s a fun day that we should celebrate.”