Tennessee basketball: Vols John Fulkerson All-SEC, Yves Pons DPOY

Two Tennessee basketball Volunteers junior forwards received Southeastern Conference postseason recognition. One was league defensive player of the year.

When Tennessee basketball came into this season, expectations were that the guards would be the stars. However, with the regular season now over, it’s the Vols forwards who earned SEC postseason recognition from the coaches, which was announced by the league office Tuesday.

Redshirt junior forward John Fulkerson was named second-team Coaches’ All-SEC after averaging 13.7 points and just under six rebounds a game for the year. At 6’9″ 212 pounds, he came in as the only experienced post player on the team, and he was faced with having to replace the production of Grant Williams and Kyle Alexander.

Fulkerson’s last three games likely made a strong impression, as he scored 22, 27 and 19 points in those outings. In fact, the last month of the season is likely what propelled him to that recognition. He had no games of 20 or more points before February, and dating back to Feb. 4, he has had four such games.

In addition to Fulkerson, Yves Pons also received recognition from the league. The 6’6″ 215-pound junior wing player was named to the SEC Coaches’ All-Defensive team and took it a step further by earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

Pons led the league in blocks this year with 73, and he was tasked with being able to defend all five positions at different times throughout the year. For the season, he averaged 10.8 points and nearly five and a half rebounds a game.

Over the previous two years, Pons and Fulkerson were both reserves for the Vols with Williams, Alexander and Admiral Schofield as the starters. Pons, coming from France, was a raw talent who had to develop. Fulkerson, meanwhile, had to spend 2017-2018 getting back into rhythm after a season-ending injury that forced him to redshirt as a freshman in 2016-2017.

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Due to injuries at different times, both players started games before this year. But they really took off with the departure of those other guys. As a result, they both deserve respect for their improvements, and the major story is the fact that they could both be back next year.