The lure of the dream, the chance to play professionally in the NBA, is a dangling carrot that entices many a young man to forego their remaining years in college basketball to seek an invite to the dance.
For a time, it appeared that Port-au-Prince’s Yves Pons would be numbered among this group. Coming off a strong junior season for the Tennessee Volunteers, it was anticipated that 6-foot-6, 215-pound forward would declare for the NBA Draft.
However, when Pons took to social media earlier this month to make an official announcement regarding the plans for his basketball future, the words caught some by surprise. He was opting to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft.
“Je reviens,” Pons posted on Twitter in his native tongue of French. English translation? “I will be back.”
And no, Pons wasn’t quoting from The Terminator. He was talking about himself, deciding to clear up any misconception there might be from the unilingual by adding his own translated words.
“I’m back,” Pons added to his tweet. “GBO.”
That is the acronym for “Go Big Orange,” the Tennessee cheer.
It was enough to make the Volunteers feel like they just got paid.
Pons developed into one of the best defenders in the nation during the 2018-19 NCAA men’s basketball season. He blocked a shot in every one of the 31 games he played last season. Pons finished the year with 73 blocked shots, tying a Volunteers single-season school record.
That performance helped Pons earn SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was the first Tennessee player to win the award.
“Obviously, I think he’s the defensive player of the year because you think about taking him off the court with us and how many fix-it plays he has fixed for his teammates,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes told the Knoxville News. “He has had more fix-it plays than any other player we’ve coached in a long time.”
Pons Can Put It Back
He also delivered the goods at the other end of the floor. Pons finished out the campaign averaging 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He was an outside shooting threat as well, connecting at 34.9% from 3-point range.
A starter for just 13 games as a sophomore, Pons found himself part of the starting five for every one of Tennessee’s 31 games during the 2019-20 season.
Signs of Pons’ emergence as an impact player were there from the get-go during his junior season. He scored 101 points in the first eight games of the season. Pons had scored a combined total of 94 points during his first two seasons at Tennessee. He made nine 3-pointers in a span of seven games. That equaled his outpoint from beyond the arc over his first two years as a Volunteer.
Facing No. 3 Kansas, Pons enjoyed a career day. He scored a personal-bet 24 points against the Jayhawks.
Pons entered the NBA Draft process in April.
Volunteer A Bet
Naturally, the return of such a key veteran for his senior season to an already-deep Tennessee roster has bumped up the college basketball betting odds on the Volunteers.
“The Volunteers’ roster grew on me over the course of the offseason, and that was solidified when starting forward Yves Pons decided to return to Knoxville,” ESPN basketball writer Jeff Borzello noted.
Tennessee returns nine scholarship players from last year’s team that finished 17-14 during the regular season, including a 9-9 slate in SEC play. The Vols also return 66.7% of their scoring. As well, Tennessee welcomes back 69.7 percent of its rebounding production, 85.6 percent of its blocked shots, 66.1 percent of its steals, 68.7 percent of its minutes played and 71.6 percent of its starters.
“All the ingredients are there,” Borzello pointed out. “Playmakers and scorers in the backcourt, depth and size down low — and now there’s an X-factor in Pons, who can make plays at both ends of the floor.
“Tennessee might be the SEC favorite.”
Latest posts by Haitian Times (see all)
- In Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea are pivoting to a kind of anti-Lampard - Jan. 26, 2021
- Bayern have their vulnerabilities but not nearly as many as their chasers - Jan. 26, 2021
- Borussia Dortmund ‘face a FLASH SALE of their star players’ if slump continues and they fail to qualify for Europe - Jan. 26, 2021