Air Pons is making one more circle around Knoxville.
Yves Pons, the high-flying forward who earned SEC defensive player of the year honors last season, announced Monday he would be returning for his senior season. Pons had earlier entered his name for consideration for the NBA draft, but he now will be back to lead a stacked Vols roster.
Tennessee took a step back in the 2019-20 campaign, finishing 17-14 before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. Pons wasn't the reason for regression though.
Pons averaged career-highs across the board, upping his scoring to 10.8 points per game while grabbing 5.4 rebounds and finishing with 73 blocks. His ability to alter shots and hound ball handlers on the perimeter earned his the league's top defensive honor.
Pons will be a leader on a roster which includes fellow returning senior John Fulkerson (13.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, second-team All-SEC) along with Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi, two rising sophomores who were instant starters as freshmen.
The Vols also will add Oregon transfer Victor Bailey Jr. to the mix, as well as graduate transfer E.J. Anosike (15.7 ppg, 11.6 rpg at Sacred Heart last season). Barnes will also has to integrate a top-five recruiting class while boasts five-stars Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson along with top-50 recruit Corey Walker Jr.