KNOXVILLE — A Tennessee men's basketball team that's in dire need of bodies picked up a big one Tuesday afternoon.
The addition of 7-foot-1 Serbian Uros Plavsic, who was cleared for action by the NCAA after having multiple appeals denied, gives the Volunteers a much-needed body for a roster that currently has nine of them available.
He can get his first action Wednesday night as the Vols (10-5, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) visit Georgia (10-5, 0-2) at 7 at Stegeman Coliseum.
It's not clear just how Plavsic will be able to contribute, or how rotations will be adjusted. But in an area where the Vols have been deficient — interior depth — they now have the program's biggest body available to go with 6-foot-9 junior John Fulkerson and 6-6 junior Yves Pons.
Plavsic's eligibility also will be big for next season, as it gives him a chance to reacclimate after last playing in a competitive game in the 2017-18 season. The Vols lose only senior 1,000-point scorer Jordan Bowden going into next season and have a recruiting class that's ranked in the top five, so it gives this team a chance to start jelling on the court.
"I think it's going to help us over the next month, and I think they'll find that out over conference play more than ever," coach Rick Barnes said early this week. "The timing of Lamonte (Turner, senior point guard) going down and all of that wasn't perfect timing for us, and you look around college basketball and everybody has adversity they have to deal with, but our guys, they've done the one thing we've asked them to do, which is stay locked in and help each other.
"I do think the experience they're getting right now is going to pay big dividends eventually. I think more than anything, it will help them once we do head into the offseason (to) understand how hard it is and how everybody can play. You have to find a way to get better, because if you're not getting better, the old saying is you're getting worse, and I think that's true."
It was never a slam-dunk case for the NCAA to clear Plavsic, which likely was why it took so long. The former Hamilton Heights standout in Chattanooga committed to Cleveland (Ohio) State a week after arriving in the United States, yet never signed. He backed out of that commitment in April 2018 and initially was thought to be going to Georgia Tech with former Cleveland State assistant Drazen Zlovaric, who was slated to join Josh Pastner's staff in Atlanta.
When that didn't work out, Zlovaric and Plavsic ended up at Arizona State, where Zlovaric served as an assistant for one season while Plavsic redshirted. When Zlovaric was let go after the 2018-19 season, Plavsic chose to transfer to Knoxville, where he would be closer to his host family in Chattanooga.
Unlike recently added point guard Santiago Vescovi, Plavsic has been practicing with the Vols since his arrival, so that part of the process becomes much easier than it was for Vescovi. Still, Plavsic has played only one season in the United States — at the high school level — so it could take some time for the newest version of the team to get comfortable together.
But Tuesday was a win for a team that's in need of them.
And more importantly, it's a win for Plavsic.
"We appreciate the committee's work as this process ran its course," athletic director Phillip Fulmer said in a news release. "We're thrilled that Uros will receive his opportunity to compete and that he no longer stands to lose a year of his eligibility.
"Our compliance staff put a great deal of work and persistence into achieving this outcome. This is the right decision."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.