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Vols Officially Welcome “Impressive” Grad Transfer Forward

(Photo via Steve McLaughlin/Sacred Heart Athletics)

At the end of March, Sacred Heart forward EJ Anosike announced he would be transferring to Tennessee for his final year of college basketball. On Wednesday, UT officially announced the addition of Anosike to the roster.

The 6-foot-6, 245-pound forward from East Orange, New Jersey signed an institutional aid agreement and will enroll at UT this summer. He will be eligible immediately to play for Tennessee’s men’s basketball team for the 2020-21 season. Anosike will wear a No. 55 jersey in honor of his sister, Nicky Anosike, who played for the Lady Vols from 2004-08.

Anosike earned First Team All-Northeast Conference honors after averaging 15.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 33.2 minutes a game in the 2019-20 season, starting all 33 games he played. Anosike was a Second Team All-NEC player as a sophomore in 2018-19 after averaging 14.3 points and 8.1 rebounds a game in 32 games, including 30 starts.

The talented forward ranked fourth in all of Division I in offensive rebounds per game, bringing down 4.18 a game. He averaged a double-double as a junior and was sixth in Division I in total rebounds per game.

“Aside from being a great person from a great family, E.J. brings experience and toughness,” Vols head coach Rick Barnes said in a statement. “Anyone who averages a double-double for an entire season and displays the versatility he has is impressive. He also plays with tremendous competitive spirit, which is valuable for any team.”

As a junior, Anosike shot 48.4 percent overall and 25 percent from three. He totaled 18 double-doubles this past season, including a 26-point, 22-rebound performance against LIU. His 18 double-doubles were the seventh-most in Division I this past season. Anosike has amassed 27 double-doubles in his three years of college basketball. He led the NEC in rebounds per game as a junior and finished third in field goal percentage and seventh in points per game. He also attempted the second-most free throws in the conference and tied for the third-most makes from the free throw line.

Throughout his career at Sacred Heart, Anosike played in 95 games and made 63 starts, totaling 1,100 points and 757 rebounds while shooting 48.3 percent overall.

In his sophomore season, Anosike was a better three-point shooter, connecting on 35.8 percent of his 53 three-pointers. His efficiency took a dip last season, but overall he’s made 28.3 percent of the 138 threes he’s attempted.

Most of Anosike’s production at Sacred Heart came against other NEC teams, but he wasn’t a slouch against opponents from bigger conferences, either. In 10 combined games against teams from the Big East, ACC, AAC, and Big Ten, Anosike averaged 10.6 points and 6.3 rebounds, shooting 41.6 percent overall in those contests.

Ryan Peters, a contributor for Northeast Conference Sports and Blue Ribbon Sports, called Anosike an “ultimate team guy” in an interview with RTI last month, calling him an ideal post player for Tennessee.

“One thing (Sacred Heart head coach) Anthony Latina told me about EJ is that as the years have gone on, EJ was one of the hardest workers on his team. He had one of the hardest work ethics Anthony has ever seen in Sacred Heart history,” Peters said. “(EJ) puts himself in such a great position with his diet and his energy and the way he focuses on his craft. He’s a student of the game. He’s kinda more of a lead by example type of guy, but he really puts his money where his mouth his.

“There’s no shortcuts for him. He’s a relentless hard-worker. He’ll do anything he can to help the team win. I think that in itself is a great leadership quality to have.”

Anosike’s sister, Nicky, was a standout under Pat Summitt with the Lady Vols from 2004-08 and helped Tennessee win two national titles. She finished her UT career with over 1,000 points and averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds in four years. She also helped the USA Women’s U19 team win the gold medal in 2005 and won a gold medal in 2007 as well. Nicky Anosike played in the WNBA for a handful of seasons and was a WNBA All-Star in 2009. In 2018, Anosike served as a graduate assistant under Holly Warlick in Warlick’s final year as the Lady Vols’ head coach.

Coming out of Paramus Catholic High School, EJ Anosike only had offers from programs like Sacred Heart, Dartmouth, Robert Morris, and Vermont among other mid-majors. He scored over 1,000 points in high school and averaged 18 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, and three steals in his senior season. He spent a grad year at St. Thomas More Academy before joining Sacred Heart.

Anosike gives Tennessee an intriguing post option who will provide some much-needed depth down low. Yves Pons played as an undersized four at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds this season, and Anosike fits that role even better at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds.

Tennessee will now have nine players on the roster who measure in at 6-foot-6 or taller — including four-star signee Corey Walker — assuming no other players transfer. Anosike joins John Fulkerson, Yves Pons, Uros Plavsic, Olivier Nkamhoua, and Drew Pember as post players on UT’s roster for the 2020-21 season.

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