(utsports.com) For the first time in program history, a Tennessee Volunteer is the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Junior forward Yves Pons was awarded the honor by the Southeastern Conference head coaches, the league announced Tuesday. He was also named to the five-man All-Defensive Team. Fellow junior John Fulkerson was tabbed by the coaches as a second-team All-SEC performer.
Pons led the SEC in blocks all year and finished the regular season with 73 blocks in 31 games (2.4 bpg). His 73 blocks ties UT’s single-season record, initially set by C.J. Black in 1997-98. Pons needs just one more block during postseason play to stand alone as Tennessee’s single-season leader.
A native of Fuveau, France, Pons effectively guards all five positions, and he supplemented his league-leading blocks total with 13 steals and seven drawn charges.
Pons also made his mark offensively this season, averaging a career-best 9.9 points in league play. He scored in double figures in nine SEC games.
He is the third Vol ever selected to the SEC All-Defensive Team, joining JaJuan Smith (2008) and Josh Richardson (2014, 2015).
Fulkerson’s All-SEC award is the ninth coaches first- or second-team honor earned by a Vol during Rick Barnes‘ five-year tenure with Tennessee.
A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, Fulkerson started every game for the Big Orange and led the team during SEC play in scoring (15.1 ppg), rebounding (6.1 rpg) and field-goal percentage (.578). He also drew 112 total fouls in SEC play—or 6.2 per game.
He logged a pair of double-doubles in league action and dropped 20 or more points against four different SEC opponents. His top performance came at Kentucky on March 3, when he scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed six rebounds to power Tennessee past the sixth-ranked Wildcats in Rupp Arena.
This is the third time in the last four years that one of UT’s All-SEC honorees is a Tennessee native (Robert Hubbs III in 2017 and Jordan Bone in 2019).
Fulkerson, Pons and the rest of the Vols begin SEC Tournament play Thursday at 1 p.m. ET / noon CT when they face Alabama in a second-round showdown at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The game will be televised on SEC Network.