Tennessee power forward John Fulkerson was one of 20 collegiate players named to the Karl Malone Award Preseason Watch List, Thursday.
The award— named after the great Louisiana Tech big man— honors the best power forward in college basketball every season. Gonzaga power forward Drew Time earned the award last season.
The watch list cuts down to 10 players in late January and five players in late February. The Basketball Hall of Fame awards the winner during the weekend of the Final Four.
The Hall of Fame has presented the award for the last seven seasons. Former winners include Zion Williamson— who beat out Tennessee’s Grant Williams— Deandre Ayton and Obi Toppin.
Auburn freshman Jabari Smith and LSU forward Darius Days are the only SEC players that join Fulkerson on the preseason watch list.
The left-handed big man is entering his sixth season on the Tennessee basketball team, deciding to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility offered due to COVID-19. The Kingsport, Tennessee native planned on last season being his last in the orange-and-white, offering a touching scene as he left the Thompson-Boling Arena court for the last time last season.
Fulkerson’s plans changed five days later. While facing the same Florida team the Vols had beaten five day prior, Fulkerson caught a dirty elbow from Florida big man Omar Payne. The elbow gave Fulkerson a serious concussion, forced him to have surgery on fractured bones in his face and ended his senior season.
With that, the lifelong Tennessee fan decided to give it one more season in Knoxville.
Fulkerson had a breakout junior season in 2019-20, earning Second Team All-SEC honors. The 6-foot-9 forward went from averaging 3.1 points and 2.6 rebounds as a sophomore to 13.7 points and 5.9 rebounds as a junior. The big man was even better towards the end of the season, averaging over 15 points per game in SEC play.
Fulkerson took a step back in his first senior season, averaging 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said Fulkerson dealt with “COVID-19 fatigue” after contracting the virus before the season.
Tennessee and Fulkerson are looking for a bounce back season when they open the 2021-22 campaign against UT-Martin in under three weeks.