Yves Pons withdraws from NBA Draft, returning for senior season

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    Photo by Caitlyn Jordan/RTI

    Tennessee forward Yves Pons has withdrawn his name from the 2020 NBA Draft and will return for his senior season with the Vols, according to a report from ESPN college basketball analyst Sean Farnham.

    “2nd thoughts are over,” Farnham wrote. “Yves Pons will return to (Tennessee) for his senior season, according to NCAA certified representation.”

    Jeff Goodman confirmed Farnham’s report on Twitter.

    Pons, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, announced April 25 that he was declaring for the NBA Draft. He did not sign with an agent at the time in order to leave open the possibility of returning to school.

    Last week, Pons was one of 105 players invited to the NBA Draft Combine. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported Thursday morning that the NBA sent teams a list of 105 players that received the most votes to be invited to the NBA Combine.

    Pons enjoyed a breakout season in 2019-20 with the Vols. He went from averaging just 2.2 points and 1.8 rebounds while shooting 28 percent from three as a sophomore, to averaging 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds while making 34.9 percent of his threes as a junior. He finished third on the team in scoring, rebounding and three-point shooting percentage.

    The 6-foot-6 native from France tied a school record for most blocks in a season by accumulating 73 in 31 games. That mark tied CJ Black’s single-season mark, and Pons’ 2.36 blocks per game finished as the second-best average in a single season in school history, trailing only Black’s 2.52 per game in that same 1997-98 campaign.

    Along with winning the 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year award for his defensive performance, Pons was also named to the 2020 All-SEC Defensive Team. He was the first Vol ever to be named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and just the third Vol to make the SEC All-Defensive Team.

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    Pons signed with Tennessee out of the INSEP (National Institute of Sport and Physical Education) Academy in Paris. He was considered one of the top-10 international prospects at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championships in Zaragoza, Spain.

    As a freshman in 2017-18, Pons saw action in 24 games off the bench, playing an average of 5.2 minutes per game. Pons then appeared in 35 games with 13 starts as a sophomore in 2018-19. He shot .516 from the field. 15 of his 32 field goals on the season were dunks.

    Pons is the ninth scholarship player returning from last year’s team that went 17-14 in the regular season and 9-9 in SEC play. He’s the team’s second-leading returning scorer, and the third-leading returning rebounder.

    Tennessee added Sacred Heart graduate transfer E.J. Anosike this offseason, who will pair well with Pons. Anosike joined the nation’s No. 4 overall recruiting class according to 247Sports’ team rankings.

    Ben McKee
    Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He grew up an Army brat and lived in Alabama for a bit, but he bleeds orange. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also a co-host on the RTI Live Show and RTI Podcast. You can also hear Ben on the morning sports radio show "The Swain Event." He's the producer and co-host along with former Vol wide receiver Jayson Swain.