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Uros Plavsic denied waiver to play this year from NCAA

Bad news.

Tennessee Vols Basketball Uros Plavsic Uros Plavsic/Twitter

Just days before the season, Tennessee basketball received some bad news. 7-foot center Uros Plavsic had his waiver denied by the NCAA, according to Jon Rothstein.

“If there is anybody that has ever deserved to have an appeal to play, it’s him,” Rick Barnes said this summer. “Once they review it, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get to play. It’s the circumstances that he’s been under. I think, again, if they look at it the way we think they should, I just don’t see how he can’t be allowed to play.”

So much for that.

Plavsic transferred in from Arizona State just days after Grant Williams announced that he was staying in the 2019 NBA Draft. He was expected to be the main inside presence for Tennessee, which badly needed help at the position.

Plavsic transferred after assistant coaching changes at Arizona State. He did not play as a freshman for the Sun Devils last season.

The Volunteers saw Williams and center Kyle Alexander move on to the NBA. They needed even more help when Derrick Walker and D.J. Burns opted to transfer out during the offseason. Now with Plavsic denied, the frontcourt situation looks awfully thin.

John Fulkerson and Yves Pons started at the four and five for Tennessee in their scrimmage on Wednesday night. Olivier Nkamhoua, Drew Pember and Zach Kent provided minutes off the bench.

As Rothstein notes, Tennessee plans to appeal the decision. If unsuccessful, expect a lot of small-ball from Rick Barnes this season, led by senior guards Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden.

UPDATE: Tennessee has released a statement.

“Uros Plavsic was denied clearance to compete with our men’s basketball program this season, and our appeal of that decision also was denied. We are extremely disappointed – quite frankly, stunned – in this outcome, and feel strongly that very compelling facts support clearance for immediate eligibility. We are at a loss as to how this decision aligns with a mission of prioritizing the well-being of student-athletes, and we are struggling to provide an explanation to a deserving young man who stands to lose a year of eligibility. We will stand by Uroš and support him in every way possible as we exhaust all options in advocating for his competitive opportunity.”

The statement notes that the appeal has already been denied by the NCAA. So Tennessee will be without Plavsic this season. He will sit out a year along with point guard Victor Bailey, but both will be eligible in 2020-21.

For this year though, Tennessee is going to have to have Yves Pons really grow into his new frontcourt power forward role quickly. The Volunteers will need Nkamhoua, Pember and Kent to grow up fast as each will likely have a large role in the rotation now.

One thing is for sure — we’ll see a totally different approach from the Tennessee basketball team this year.

Lamonte, Jordan — fire away, boys.