It’s been a big day on the recruiting trail for Tennessee basketball.
The Vols signed two four-star forwards which has been a position of need for several years. Along with 6-foot-10 center Zach Kent, Tennessee added Derrick Walker and Yves Pons. Here are some quick notes on the two:
Derrick Walker (Kansas City, MO)
- 6’8”, 220 lbs Power Forward
- Other noticeable offers included Georgia and St. John’s; Kansas and Wichita State had some interest
- Big and physical presence down low; will be UT’s heaviest player on the roster (outweighs Schofield by 17 lbs)
- Enrolling in summer
Yves Pons (Fuveau, France)
- 6’6”, 210 lbs Power Forward
- No. 112 overall player in the 2017 class; No. 1 French prospect
- Had some interest from Florida and Texas Tech
- Attends the National Institute of Sport and Physical Education in Paris
- Member of 2017 FIBA U18 European Championship team
- Recognized as having “elite athleticism, explosiveness, and versatility”
Ever since Rick Barnes was hired in 2015, many fans have criticized his recruiting abilities due to his age or the fact he left his home of 17 years expected to rebuild a shot SEC program. However, there were some nice players from last year’s class that surprised us all. Grant Williams exploded onto the scene and became a physical presence up and down the court, earning All-SEC Freshman honors. Jordan Bowden showed flashes with his shooting ability. Before the injury, John Fulkerson was playing pretty well, especially against the big teams like Oregon, Wisconsin, and national champs North Carolina. It wasn’t a class full of elite prospects, but it turns out that some of those lower ranked players ended up being better than most thought.
Entering his third year, Barnes has stepped up his recruiting some. No, it’s still not a class of elite talent but Pons and Walker rank as Barnes’ highest ranked recruits since taking the job two years ago. At Texas, he landed all kinds of elite talent including Kevin Durant, T.J. Ford, D.J. Augustin, Tristan Thompson, and Avery Bradley. Barnes has tasted success in his career and knows what it takes to compete at a high level.
Age and surrounding competition are factors and they definitely can affect recruiting ability, but with today’s signings, maybe Barnes still has it. Fans really want to see Tennessee be good again in basketball and it all starts with recruiting. To compete at a high level, Barnes simply needs to recruit higher profile guys. Walker and Pons fit that mold.