On Saturday afternoon, Tennessee announced that they had heard back from the NCAA regarding the status of Arizona State transfer Uros Plavsic’s immediate eligibility waiver to play for the Vols’ men’s basketball team this season. The NCAA — much to the dismay of UT Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer — denied Plavsic’s waiver and the subsequent appeal Tennessee issued.
Shortly after that decision became public, Plavsic reacted to the news.
The seven-foot center posted to his personal Twitter account on Saturday that his “heart belongs to Tennessee” and urged Vol fans to “stay ready” despite the discouraging news.
— Uroš Plavšić (@urosp34) November 2, 2019
Plavsic came to the United States from Serbia, and he enrolled in Hamilton Heights down in Chattanooga for high school. There, Plavsic was recruited by former Georgia and UT-Chattanooga player Drazen Zlovaric while he was an assistant at Cleveland State. Plavsic committed to Cleveland State, but when Zlovaric, a fellow Serbian, was let go from the Vikings’ staff, Plavsic reopened his recruitment.
From there, Plavsic committed to and ended up signing with Arizona State. Just a few months later, Zlovaric was hired as an assistant under head coach Bobby Hurley for the Sun Devils.
This offseason, Hurley elected not to retain Zlovaric, and that had an impact on Plavsic’s situation at Arizona State. Plavsic decided to transfer shortly after, and now he’s at Tennessee.
Coming out of high school, Plavsic was a four-star prospect according to 247Sports. Their analysis had him rated as the No. 120 overall player and No. 16 center in the 2018 class. He averaged 9.6 points and 7.5 rebounds for Hamilton Heights and came on strong in the last 12 games of the season, helping his team go undefeated in that stretch and go 28-7 overall. In those 12 games, Plavsic averaged 13.5 points and 9.4 rebounds after being inserted into a starting role.
Plavsic used his one year at Arizona State to redshirt and put on some much-needed weight. The seven-foot center joined the Sun Devils weighing around 215 pounds, but he measured in at 240 pounds by the end of his redshirt freshman season.
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes was optimistic all offseason that Plavsic would be granted immediate eligibility and would be able to play for the Vols during the 2019-20 season. While it appears UT will still try and do what they can to get Plavsic on the court at some point this season, they’ll be starting out the year without his services.
Without Plavsic, Tennessee is thin in their frontcourt and will likely have to rely on several undersized lineups.
The Vols have 6-foot-11 forward Zach Kent as an option at the five, but it’s more likely that 6-foot-9 redshirt junior forward John Fulkerson will play more at the five. Fulkerson got the start there for Tennessee’s lone exhibition game against Eastern New Mexico this past week, totaling 11 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes. Kent played 15 minutes and ended the game with six points, two rebounds, an assist, and a block while also picking up four fouls.
Freshmen Olivier Nkamhoua (6-foot-8) and Drew Pember (6-foot-9) are the only other true post options the Vols have on scholarship, but Pember left the exhibition game on crutches and is likely out for a while. Nkamhoua played 18 minutes against Eastern New Mexico, totaling seven points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a steal.
Junior Yves Pons (6-foot-6) will likely plays as an undersized four this season as well. Pons was effective on defense in UT’s exhibition game, blocking four shots and coming down with five rebounds to go along with five points in 20 minutes.