For the first time in school history, a Tennessee Vol has been named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in men’s basketball.
Junior forward Yves Pons was selected as the conference’s top defensive player for the 2019-20 season on Tuesday, becoming the first Vol to ever win the award. He was also named to the SEC All-Defensive Team.
Pons emerged as an offensive threat and took another step as a defender, becoming one of the most elite shot blockers in all of college basketball this season. That distinction is what helped him win the DPOY in the SEC.
The 6-foot-6 forward has played as an undersized four for most of the season for the Vols, and he’s excelled in that role on both ends of the court. Pons leads the SEC with 2.4 blocks per game, and his 73 blocks on the season are tied with CJ Black for the most blocks in a single season in UT history. Pons finished the regular season blocking at least one shot in every game Tennessee played, which is a school record.
Pons, a native of France, has enjoyed career-highs across the board as a full-time starter for the Vols this season. He’s averaging 10.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.1 assists while shooting 48.9 percent overall and 34.9 percent from three.
Along with leading the Vols in blocks, he’s second on the team in rebounds (166) and minutes played (1,052) and is third in three-point shooting (34.9%) and total field goals made (131).
But Pons wasn’t the only Vol to receive postseason honors on Tuesday.
Redshirt junior forward John Fulkerson was named to the coaches All-SEC Second Team as well, becoming the ninth Vol under head coach Rick Barnes to earn all-conference honors.
Fulkerson has shown incredible growth in his redshirt junior season. After being just a role player off the bench last season, Fulkerson struggled to take on more responsibility early on in the 2019-20 season. But he hit his stride over the last month, and he’s been Tennessee’s best player.
In the Vols’ final 10 games of the regular season, Fulkerson averaged 18.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks while shooting 57.3 percent overall and 74.4 percent from the free throw line in 32.3 minutes a game. Thanks to that spurt to end the season, Fulkerson is currently the Vols’ leading scorer with 426 points, just edging out senior guard Jordan Bowden (424).
In his fourth year with Tennessee, Fulkerson is averaging 13.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.1 steals a game while shooting 61.2 percent overall. Fulkerson’s 61.2 field goal shooting percentage is currently the fourth-best shooting percentage in a single season in school history, trailing only Dale Ellis, Reggie Johnson, and Bernard King.
Fulkerson leads Tennessee in points (426), shooting percentage (61.2%), rebounds (183), steals (33), free throw attempts (151), and made free throws (113).