Tennessee basketball 2020-2021 preview: Frontcourt

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Jan 15, 2019; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes speaks with Tennessee Volunteers forward Yves Pons (35) during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a look at the 2020-2021 Tennessee basketball Volunteers forwards and centers.

Half the reason for the hype behind this year’s Tennessee basketball team is the top five recruiting class that included two five-star guards in the backcourt. However, a plethora of experience in the frontcourt to complement that makes up the other half of the equation.

Rocky Top didn’t lose anybody forwards or centers from its 2019-2020 team, and it actually added three new players. As we get set to preview this frontcourt, we’ll separate it out by returning starters, returning backups and newcomers before closing out with the biggest questions and a final take.

Let’s go ahead and dive in with the returning starters. This is our preview of Tennessee basketball’s forwards and centers and a look at why they bring so much hype to Rick Barnes’ program this year.

Returning starters

Yves Pons; 6’6″ 215 pounds; Senior; Fuveau, France

The reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Yves Pons tested the NBA Draft waters after averaging just under 11 points and five and a half rebounds a game last year while shooting 34.9 percent from three. His real story, though, was averaging over two blocks a game.

A ridiculously athletic French player out of INSEP Academy, Pons has been one of Barnes’ great development stories. His next two steps should be improving his free throw shooting, which was at 63.8 percent, and cutting down on his turnovers, which were at over one and a half a game and well over his assists. If he fixes those things, he could become a superstar.

John Fulkerson; 6’9″ 215 pounds; Redshirt senior; Kingsport, Tenn.

After four years as Kyle Alexander’s backup, John Fulkerson stepped in at center last year, despite being undersized, and looked primed and ready for the position. He became UT’s leading scorer, averaging 13.7 points a game, and the product of Christ School in North Carolina, after never scoring 20 in his career, scored 20 or more in four if the Vols’ final 10 games.

Now, he’s expected to be Tennessee basketball’s go-to player down low. After averaging just under six rebounds a game, he could get more aggressive on the board to become a true post player. That could make him a national star.

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