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Kellan Grady on the Mark Pope era: "I think Kentucky is in really good hands"

On3 imageby:Tyler Thompson06/13/24


All of the players on La Familia, Kentucky’s alumni team in The Basketball Tournament (TBT), played for John Calipari, ranging from Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton at the start of the Cal era in 2009-10 to Kellan Grady just a few years ago. Even though Calipari is now at Arkansas and Mark Pope is the new head coach in Lexington, the bond between player and school remains strong for Grady, who spent his graduate season at Kentucky in 2021-22 after four years at Davidson.

Yesterday, Grady told KSR that he’s looking forward to seeing what Pope can do at Kentucky, specifically mentioning his up-tempo, efficient offense (in which Grady, a proficient shooter, would have thrived).

“I’m very excited. I think we’re in really good hands. I read a lot about him and saw a lot of YouTube clips. I know he’s historically had a very proficient offense and I think BBN will be excited about that.”

“Overall, I think Kentucky is in really good hands and Coach Pope will do a really good job.”

Grady was in France when the coaching change occurred, finishing up his run with Chorale Roanne Basket. The time difference made it tough to watch a lot of college basketball this past season, but he did catch Pope’s introductory press conference. Even though he played in a sold-out Rupp Arena many times, Grady was amazed by the turnout, as fans stuffed the building to capacity, with another 5,000 turned away at the door.

“First of all, I couldn’t believe that there were 18,000 people there for a press conference,” he said. “But I think that’s a testament just to the love and support we have from Big Blue Nation.”

Grady has played at almost every level of basketball, from high school ball in Boston to the Atlantic 10 at Davidson, a blueblood program like Kentucky, NBA training camp with the Denver Nuggets, the Grand Rapids Gold in the G League, and now, professional leagues overseas. He said there is no fanbase like Kentucky’s — even if it sometimes gets a bad rap.

“People always characterize our fanbase as crazy or they can be too harsh, but you know, you don’t do that if you don’t care,” Grady said. “Ultimately, we’ve dealt with dozens of coaches in our lives who have held us accountable and been hard on us. And that’s why BBN shows out 18,000 for a press conference with a ton of excitement, and that’s why they can get on our case sometimes, but I think it just speaks to the fanbase we have and then the excitement with regards to Kentucky Basketball going forward. So it’s really cool to see.”

For more on Grady’s return to Rupp Arena with La Familia in the TBT, I’ll direct you to this morning’s feature.

Nate Sestina joins La Familia

On Wednesday, La Familia announced its tenth member, Nate Sestina. Like Grady, the 6’9″ 234 lbs. forward played his graduate season at Kentucky after four years at Bucknell. Sestina averaged 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in the 2019-20 season, helping Kentucky to an SEC regular season title. Since then, he’s mostly been playing overseas, most recently with Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahçe.

Here is La Familia’s roster, with more announcements still to come:

The Lexington Regional, hosted by La Familia, takes place July 19-23 at Rupp Arena. Tickets are on sale now at The winners of the eight regionals will advance to the semifinals and finals on August 2-4 in Philadelphia, PA. As La Familia’s roster continues to take shape, they’re looking like one of the favorites to take home the $1 million grand prize.

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