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Barnes: Senior forward E.J. Anosike will return for 2021-22 season

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NCAA Basketball: South Carolina Upstate at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee will key a key piece of their roster back for next year, filling a big need for the 2021-22 season. Rick Barnes announced that senior forward E.J. Anosike is returning to the Vols for a second senior year, made possible by the NCAA freezing eligibility for the 2020 season.

Barnes was asked on Monday if he believed Anosike would take advantage of the rule. He confidently responded, “I don’t think there’s any question he will. And I think it’s going to be good for him.”

Anosike transferred in from Sacred Heart, where he was a star player. He’s taken on a reserve role this season in Knoxville, coming onto the floor as the first big off the bench. Yves Pons and John Fulkerson have remained the starters, while Josiah-Jordan James has gotten some run at the 4 spot in stretches this year.

Anosike is averaging about 12 minutes per game, scoring three points and adding three rebounds per contest. As a junior at Sacred Heart, Anosike averaged 15 and 11.

Fulkerson and Pons will have similar decisions to make at the end of the year, though Pons is likely headed to the NBA. Tennessee has signed four-star guard Jahmai Mashack and five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler in the class of 2021, but has yet to land a big.

Anosike sticking around will at the very least provide depth for next year’s team. Olivier Nkamhoua, Corey Walker, Uros Plavsic and Drew Pember should have a chance to carve out bigger roles, assuming Tennessee doesn’t add anymore pieces. But as we know in college basketball, things can change pretty quickly. Now with this new wrinkle in the rulebook, it’ll be interesting to see who takes advantage.