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Rick Barnes: Uros Plavsic has to be more physical

Barnes talks about his big man.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

After a battle with the NCAA that lasted over half of the season, Uros Plavsic finally won his appeal and was ready to play. The 7-1 center who transferred in from Arizona State was thought of a guy who could replace Tennessee’s rim protector role with Kyle Alexander leaving the program.

However, it’s been a bumpy start for Plavsic — understandably so after joining the team in the middle of SEC play. He was able to practice with the team all season long, but playing in games is a different animal.

Against Kentucky, Plavsic logged just 11 minutes after starting in the absence of Josiah James. But he didn’t play much after starting. After the game, Barnes explained why.

“Uros has to be more physical,” Barnes said after the game. “A guy that size, he can’t be a finesse player. He can’t be a finesse player. But he’s a freshman, he’s learning this. The play in the second half should’ve been a dunk. I mean, if he were playing at the speed he needed to, that should’ve been an easy basket for us, opposed to them getting a block right there.”

Plavsic played his best game of the season at Mississippi State, playing 26 minutes out of the blue. He scored 16 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and getting to the free throw line consistently. But since then, Plavsic has logged just 20 minutes over the last two games.

“I don’t think he even has a clue about how he has to play this game,” Barnes said. “He’s never been a player that would be classified as physical even though Kyle Alexander wasn’t either. We need him to understand how we need him to play. It’s going to take him some time, but he is a gifted player.

“He just has to do what we teach him to do and he’ll be fine.”

The emergence of John Fulkerson and Yves Pons in the post has taken some pressure off of Plavsic, but he’s going to be a key piece moving into the future. His development is a big key for this program going forward, without any post players set to join Tennessee next season.

But as we’ve seen in the past, players in this system develop over time. Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, Jordan Bone, John Fulkerson, Yves Pons — Rick Barnes’ track record so far at Tennessee can’t be disputed. Plavsic needs to become the next in that line.