Tennessee forward Yves Pons, announced today that he would return for his senior season. This is big news for a Volunteers team that while talented, needs Pons defensively and fortunately they were able to get him back for another season. Pons is an elite defender and athlete who can jump out of the gym.
Pons is 6’6” and can guard 1-5 defensively which is a major help, for the Volunteers on defense. He has the speed to be able to guard any team’s best player, although his best role comes inside, where he can block shots at an elite rate. Pons averaged 10.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game a season ago, while he shot 34.9% from three and 48.9% from the field. For Pons, the main area he needs to work on is his offensive game in general. He can post-up and hit open jumpers but he really can’t be relied upon consistently enough, for him to significantly raise his draft stock he will need to improve upon that aspect of his game.
Going into next season, here is the Volunteers lineup:
PG: Santiago Vescovi
SG: Josiah Jordan-James
SF: Jaden Springer
PF: Yves Pons
C: John Fulkerson
Bench: Keon Johnson, Victor Bailey Jr, Corey Walker, Olivier Nkamhoua
This is a very deep and talented roster that should have high-levels of success for next season. Point guard Santiago Vescovi reclassified and played following the loss of Lamonte Turner and he was good from the jump, he was a solid point guard, who averaged 10.7 points and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 36% from three. Josiah Jordan-James will start alongside him in the backcourt, James was up and down in his freshman season but he averaged 7.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game, which was very useful.
Freshmen Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer should both make an impact as freshmen. Springer is a five-star prospect, who is known as a power guard that can make shots from anywhere on the court. Johnson is also a five-star prospect, while he is less of a shooter, he is a solid prospect who should play right away.
John Fulkerson proved himself to be a really good piece for the Volunteers this past season. Fulkerson averaged 13.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, while he shot 61.2% from the field. Oftentimes the Volunteers dumped the ball down low to him and they let him make a play.
Victor Bailey Jr. is a transfer from Oregon who should be very impactful as a seventh-man player, while Corey Walker is a four-star recruit who could back up Fulkerson inside.
Overall this is a Tennessee team that is very talented and has very few holes going into next season. While Kentucky will probably be picked as the preseason favorites in the league, Tennessee should be right up there with a chance to win the league title.