Former UK teammates Nate Sestina and Immanuel Quickley both had an impact on this past season’s team. Sestina, as a grad transfer from Bucknell, mentored his teammates with his experience, while Quickley in his sophomore season won the 2019-20 SEC Player of the Year Award for his excellent play.
What maybe maximized their capabilities was not individual pride or any selfish agendas, but rather building off-the-court relationships. As roommates at hotels before every hostile road game, the two were able to bond by simply talking.
In his appearance on Cameron Mills Radio a few weeks ago, former UK guard Immanuel Quickley talked about the relationship he and Sestina built.
“We were able to just bounce ideas off each other,” Quickley said. “Him being a little older I was able to pick off his brain, and me being at Kentucky for a year, he was able to pick off my brain.”
Both Quickley and Sestina have always been outspoken about their faith, and before a road game at Texas Tech in which Kentucky won, the two had a special conversation about each other’s devotions.
“I realized that I represent something bigger than my self, representing my family, representing my faith,” Quickley said. “I was just trying to live a right life and bring people with me.”
UK forward Nate Sestina expressed in an interview on Cameron Mills Radio this past Sunday how these conversations not only helped build a relationship between the two teammates, but created momentum for the grad transfer to escape difficult times not just on the court, but off the court.
“It opened my eyes to how devoted and faithful he is,” Sestina said. “He was such a ray light in a dark time for me.”
Sestina also opened up about his challenges early on as a Cat, saying physically playing in the game was not necessarily the hardest part, but rather developing a mentality of confidence. He had suffered a broken wrist in practice early on in the season that kept him out of play for three weeks, and after that he needed help.
In developing that winning mentality, the grad transfer not just turned to his teammates but to UK Head Coach John Calipari for advice in getting to the right mindset.
Calipari, a Hall of Fame basketball coach himself, proceeded to give him a book named “Ten Minute Toughness” which tells how to develop a confident mindset in sports. After reading it, Sestina’s season was completely turned around.
“He’s your father away from home,” Sestina said of Calipari. “It (the book) changed my whole mindset.”
The turnaround occured right before the LSU game, Sestina said. In that battle on the road in which Kentucky escaped with a victory, the grad transfer balled out, scoring 11 key points and grabbing eight boards.
From then on, Sestina lived mentally comfortable in his role as a Kentucky Wildcat, as did the rest of his teammates seemingly as the season wound down. They created the right momentum for a run potentially to the Final Four.
Unfortunately, we never got to see just how far the Cats could make it in postseason play due to the pandemic we are currently dealing with. With that said, the relationship built between Nate Sestina and Immanuel Quickley will forever remain special to them, and the mental battles that Sestina won this past season will always be remembered as key victories through his life.
So, during a basketball season in which everyone (myself included) is caught up in the play on court, do not forget that these players are human too.