Tennessee basketball: Yves Pons named to Julius Erving preseason list

The Tennessee basketball Volunteers senior forward is getting early recognition.

Preseason recognition continues to pile up for Tennessee basketball players in the post. The seniors in the front court are generating more hype than even the two five-stars that make up most of the Vols’ top five recruiting class for 2020.

Anyway, after John Fulkerson was named a Karl Malone Award candidate by Andy Katz and on a Dick Vitale preseason All-American team, it was Yves Pons’ turn to get some recognition. Pons has been named to the Julius Erving Award Preseason Watch List.

Named for NBA Hall-of-Famer Julius Erving, the award recognizes the best small forward in the nation each year. The Tennessee basketball veteran is one of 20 players to find his name on the watch list for the 2020-2021 season.

After being named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year, Pons tested the NBA Draft waters this offseason before announcing his intention to return for his senior season in August. The 6’6″ 215-pound senior from Fuveau, France averaged 10.8 points, nearly five and a half rebounds and over one assist while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from three last year.

However, the real story for Pons was his defense. He had 73 blocked shots, averaging over two a game. This is why he was recognized as the SEC’s top defender, and it’s a big reason for the hype behind him this year. Last year was also his first full season starting, and he is clearly another great Rick Barnes developmental story.

Although he is up for the Julius Erving Award, Pons most of the time played the four last year with Fulkerson playing the five. This year, though, with Sacred Heart Pioneers graduate transfer E.J. Anosike on the roster, there’s a chance he does move to the three and Barnes plays big. After all, Anosike did average a double-double last year.

At that point, Pons would play a similar role for Tennessee basketball that Admiral Schofield did for them two years ago. Either way, though, Pons is once again expected to be a major force for the Vols, and it’s no surprise that he’s on this list.