Big decision coming from NCAA

Marvin Westwestwords

Sometime soon, any day now, the NCAA will deliver a big decision to the University of Tennessee.

Seven-foot Uros Plavsic either will or won’t be eligible for basketball.

Coach Rick Barnes, he of the new multi-million-dollar contract, has maintained a positive attitude since Uros arrived in May. He was measured carefully and weighed. He lost an inch from 7-1, dropped several pounds and regained muscle to 240. The big man has gone through conditioning and preliminary drills. The coach has visualized how he can help the Volunteers.

Other players, old and new, appreciate Plavsic’s determination and work ethic and have embraced him as one of their own. Senior guards Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden have been pushing the point: They don’t want the Vols to go backwards just because last year’s stars are gone.

Uros Plavsic, to be 21 just before Christmas, may or may not emerge as a new star. As a big migratory bird, he hasn’t done much lately.

Three years ago, a do-gooder started the process of moving Uros from Ivanjica, Serbia, to the United States for a better education. That was code for a possible career in professional basketball. He looked strong playing with the Belgrade-based BC Mega Leks junior team. He looked very promising lined up against fellow Serbian and NBA all-star Nikola Jokić.

The move to America was twice delayed by visa stumbling blocks. There was no problem in the target zone. Hamilton Heights Christian Academy coach Zach Ferrell, his wife, Rachel, and their children were all set as Plavsic’s host family in Chattanooga.

Uros’ future was outlined in pencil. He was going to play one high school season and go to college at Cleveland (Ohio) State. Drazen Zlovaric was an assistant coach there. He is from Serbia.

Plavsic got off to a slow start at Hamilton Heights but found his way. The team finished with a 12-game winning streak. Recruiters noticed. No race, Uros was committed.

But, he wasn’t. Zlovaric got a better job at Arizona State. Plavsic went to Tempe. He was red-shirted last season, fine practice player, no games.

Zlovaric, for some unrelated reason, was suddenly unemployed. His contact lost, Plavsic packed up. UT just happened to have a scholarship available. UT is close to Chattanooga. Plavsic calls Chattanooga home. That is the basis of his appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility.

Barnes says Uros is a skilled athlete with impact size.

“He’s a strong, physical player who can hold his own in the paint, and his offensive skill set could allow him to play away from the basket, keeping the floor spaced. His mobility and ability to run make him a great fit in our transition offense and pressure defense schemes.

“And his comprehension of the game and understanding of the value of being a great teammate are more reasons we ‘re excited about him joining our program.”

Plavsic says the Vols feel like family. He credits the Chattanooga family for love and understanding.

He says he wakes up every morning happy to go to school and to practice. All he needs now is the NCAA OK. He hopes somebody hurries and says yes. The Vols play Eastern New Mexico on Wednesday evening in an exhibition game. The real season opens Nov. 5 against North Carolina-Asheville.

Marvin West welcomes reader remarks and questions. His address is

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