Tennessee’s Uros Plavsic did a lot to stand out on Tuesday night against Vanderbilt, much more than simply being a 7-footer.
In his third start of the season, the Vols junior set season highs for points (13) and minutes played (20:36). His rebound basket with 55 seconds left broke a tie and ignited an eight-point finishing kick for the 68-60 victory.
Plavsic didn’t distinguish himself, though, in assessing his performance.
“I don’t want to separate myself from others,” he said afterward.
“This was a great team win. This entire game was a team effort.”
Plavsic seems more comfortable being a teammate. He embraced the role after transferring to UT from Arizona State in 2019. He seems at home with the Vols. In a sense, he is. The native of Cacak, Serbia, began his U.S. hoops journey at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga.
Plavsic’s demonstrative support of his teammates has made him both a team and fan favorite.
“If you are not happy with other people’s success, I don’t think you’ll ever be successful,” he said. “So, if I see my teammates doing good on the floor, I’m going to support that. I’m definitely going to be happy for them no matter what kind of situation I’m in at the moment. I’m never selfish. I want everybody to make it. I want everybody to play good. If everybody could score 20 points and have 20 rebounds, I would love that.”
Plavsic found himself in a situation Tuesday night where he deserved some support. He scored his points on 6-for-7 shooting from the floor. He also grabbed seven rebounds. Four of them were offensive boards. Although it wasn’t 20 and 20, there was a lot to love about his play.
“A couple of weeks ago, you could just tell he finally said hey I’m going to do exactly what this team needs; he does that,” UT coach Rick Barnes said. “...He has strictly bought into the role that we need him to play. We tell him all the time if he will get in his head that he will play great defense for us, rebound the ball and on offense, we tried to limit him to a couple of areas on the floor where we want him to be effective.”
What Tennessee needs from Plavsic is to play to his strengths and those attributes primarily revolve around his stature and his appetite for work.
“The main thing is I want to play physical,” Plavsic said. “I want to be that guy that does all the dirty work on the court and stuff like that. When you play defense, you get open shots for your teammates. When you’re not looking for shots every single possession, I think that is something that is going to give you actually success on offense.”
Plavsic said a mouthful with the last thought. Another strength is he doesn’t shoot 3-pointers. He doesn’t need to obsess over what’s a good shot or whether he’s shooting in rhythm. He’s not adding to that ongoing drama. Instead, he’s intent on doing the opposite.
“I can’t keep (the ball) in my hands for too long,” Plavsic said. “Those other guys, they are coming to steal the ball. It is simple.”
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.