It took several months, but Uros Plavsic finally got to make his debut as a Tennessee Volunteer on Wednesday night.
The seven-foot transfer from Arizona State took the court for the first time this season in the Vols’ 80-63 loss to Georgia in Athens on Wednesday after Tennessee finally heard back on their last-ditch waiver appeal for him. Plavsic’s initial waiver for immediate eligibility over the summer was denied, and UT’s first appeal for him was also denied. Tennessee announced in early November that Plavsic would not be allowed to play, but Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said just days after that UT planned on filing a second and final appeal.
Two months after filing that appeal, Plavsic finally got an answer. And he can finally suit up and play with half a season left.
Plavsic’s debut didn’t go how he and Vol fans hoped, both for him and for the team. The redshirt freshman scored five points on 2-of-6 shooting and brought down three rebounds in 17 minutes of play. He also picked up two fouls, turned the ball over once, and was 1-of-3 from the free throw line in the Vols’ 17-point road loss.
After the game, Plavsic spoke with reporters about the whole process he’s gone through this season, how he felt about waiting, and his emotions when he found out he was cleared finally.
“It was amazing. I did not expect that,” Plavsic said about finding out on Tuesday he had been cleared, per quotes from 247Sports. “I knew the news was not supposed to come until Friday. I was waiting for Friday to hear something back from the NCAA. It just came two days early. They said, ‘Hey, you are cleared. You are ready to go.’ I was shocked. I am not going to lie, I was about to cry. I was happy at the same time. My emotions, everything was going through my head. All the work I have put in. My teammates were happy for me. Everybody, the coaches. I am just ready to work my way back and help my team.”
The NCAA has been notorious in waiver cases for not providing reasons why they do or do not clear players for immediate eligibility. Tennessee has dealt with the NCAA on this matter before in football, but Plavsic was the first player to apply for a waiver for the basketball program since the new transfer rules had been put into effect.
According to Plavsic, the NCAA remained quiet on why they denied him back in November. They also didn’t explain to him why they decided to clear him two months after initially shutting him down.
“They were kind of quiet. They didn’t want to talk to me,” Plavsic explained. “They just came back and said, ‘Yes, you are ready to go.'”
The Serbian big man said that he knew something was up when practice came to a halt on Tuesday afternoon, but he was actually surprised that the NCAA came back and allowed him to play after denying him months ago.
“I knew something was going to happen, either yes or no,” Plavsic said. “I did not expect the answer yes, to be honest. I know our compliance people, coaches and stuff, all our fans on social media, they did a great job supporting me throughout the process. I want to say thanks to everybody. They did a great job. Our fans are amazing.”
Wednesday was just the beginning for Plavsic. He’s eligible to play in Tennessee’s remaining 15 regular season games and any SEC and NCAA Tournament games the Vols may participate in. The seven-footer has been practicing with his teammates despite not being cleared to play in games, and he’s ready to go out and improve.
Plavsic is also grateful for his teammates, coaches, the compliance department at UT, and Vol fans for supporting him the way they have throughout the entire process.
“It means a lot. When you get to a new school and program, you want to leave the best impression,” Plavsic stated. “I was just being myself, and all the fans did was love me. I am just so thankful for their support. The coaches, our compliance people as I already said, they did a great job. I cannot thank them enough for all they have done for me throughout the whole process and saying, ‘Calm down, everything is going to be alright.’ They just gave me the confidence that they would get this done.
“I think it took longer than it was supposed to, but here I am right now. I am ready to get better and help my team win some games.”