Tennessee’s front court duo of John Fulkerson and Yves Pons have been named to the Coaches Preseason All-SEC First Team. The Vols joined LSU as the only team to have multiple players named to the eight player, first team.
Fulkerson and Pons were both included in the media’s Preseason All-SEC teams with Fulkerson making the five player, first team. Pons received Second team honors.
The duo are two of just three seniors on this Tennessee team and will be in a leadership position they previously haven’t been in at UT.
“Obviously, John and me, we are the older guys with the most experience on this team,” Pons said. “So all I go for is to show the way and lead the young guys. It's my job. I have to get out of my comfort zone and push all of us and use my voice. I used to lead by example, but this is going to be more like trying to talk to the guys (and) trying to bring my voice to the table."
"Fulky (Fulkerson) is much better, and the guys look up to him and Yves,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said of the duo’s leadership. “They aren't the ra-ra types of guys which is fine by me, I don't want anything to be funny about anybody. Those guys are very authentic in the way they lead, and you can lead a lot of different ways, and they lead by the way they walk and the way they talk and the way they go about their business every single day.”
The All-SEC honor wasn’t the only one that came Pons way Thursday as the 6-foot-6 forward was named to the Naismith Trophy’s initial 50 player watchlist. The Naismith Trophy goes to the college player of the year. Former Tennessee forward Grant Williams was a finalist for the award in 2019.
Both Fulkerson and Pons had breakout season’s a year ago. Fulkerson’s scoring averages jumped over 10 points to 13.7 points per game including 18.7 points per game in the Vols’ final seven games last season.
“For some reason, toward the end of February, the light went off where he became a different person. His approach really changed,” Barnes said. “I think with the way he finished and if we had another month to the season, I'm not so sure he wouldn't have been Player of the Year in the league.”
Pons game also made great strides as the France native moved from small forward to power forward. The freak athlete shined in the post, boosting his scoring average by 8.8 points from the season before. Pons also added 2.8 more rebounds a game from the 2018 season. The junior also blocked a SEC high, and tied for Tennessee all time high, 73 shots.
The strong inside presence and defensive versatility led to Pons being named the 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Tennessee will begin its 2020-21 campaign on Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. ET when the Vols host Charlotte to Thompson-Boling Arena.