Giving each other some space goes with the territory these days for Nicky and E.J. Anosike but not necessarily for reasons you might assume in these unprecedented times.
Sister and brother are living under the same roof in Knoxville. Co-existing depends on common courtesy. It also thrives on mutual respect.
Nicky, 34, played on Tennessee’s last two national championship women’s basketball teams (2007, ’08) The versatile forward was a key contributor, both on the court and as a team leader.
She returned last season to serve as a graduate assistant on former coach Holly Warlick’s staff and has completed a master’s degree in recreation and sport management. She’s been working for the city of Knoxville and will begin work online in May toward a Ph.D in public policy from Liberty University.
E.J., a 6-foot-6, 245-pound forward who’s 21, announced last week that he’s coming to UT and will play next season as a graduate transfer. He spent his first three seasons at Sacred Heart in Fairfield, Conn. Last season he averaged an eye-popping 15.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. He’s finishing course work online to complete his undergraduate degree in finance and economics.
E.J. considered six other schools – including established powers like Louisville and Gonzaga – as his next destination. The tweet he posted last week announcing his choice also spoke to his relationship with Nicky and how her presence here has influenced his feelings for Tennessee.
“I can’t wait to join my family in Knoxville!” he wrote, punctuating his post with the hashtag #BeenVFL.
The post also included a photo of E.J., as a youngster, in the Thompson-Boling Arena stands attending one of his sister’s games.
“I was 12 years old when E.J. was born,’’ Nicky said. “We never had the type of relationship where siblings closer in age bicker and fight all the time.
“... To me, it’s closer to a mother and son than it is siblings.”
In that sense, Nicky takes care of E.J. regarding such matters as food and laundry. He, in turn, does what’s asked of him. Nicky isn’t overly demanding at this point. E.J.’s biggest responsibility is taking out the trash.
Nicky’s presence in Knoxville factored into the recruiting process. Still, much like his sister, E.J. did his homework and put considerable thought into his choice. If anything, the inability to visit campuses because of restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic ramped up his personal involvement.
“You have to do your own research and watch people play (online),” he said. “Schools really had to be more straightforward. It was my second time going through the recruiting process. I’m older and more mature. I look at things a little differently.”
E.J.’s homework gave him a greater appreciation for Tennessee’s playing style under coach Rick Barnes.
“I like the physicality of Coach Barnes’ teams,” he said. “They’re really gritty, really tough. There’s an aggressive mindset. Everyone plays hard.”
E.J. wanted to be recruited by Tennessee when coming out of high school. Now he’s getting the chance to finish his collegiate career as a Vol.
“It’s something I’m really grateful for,” he said. “It’s a testament to the hard work I’ve put in.”
The opportunity will serve as a tribute to his older sister, too. He’s chosen to wear jersey No. 55, the same number as hers.
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Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at email@example.com.