KNOXVILLE, Tenn.. — Coach Rick Barnes signed two more players into Tennessee’s 2017 class on Wednesday, Yves Pons from Paris, France, and Derrick Walker out of the Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kansas.
Pons, a 6-foot-6, 217-pound small forward, is ranked as the No 131 player in the nation, per the 247Sports composite rankings.
Walker, 6-8, 255, is originally from Kansas City, Mo., and ranks No 261 in the country.
The players join November signee Zach Kent, a 6-10, 235-pounder post from Blair Academy, to give Tennessee the No. 53-ranked signing class in the nation — and No. 12-ranked class in the SEC.
The Vols have another scholarship to offer in this class thanks to Kwe Parker’s decision to transfer.
Barnes told SEC Country that he’s looking for a perimeter player who can “impact the program.”
Tennessee finished ninth in the SEC and 16-16 overall last season, missing the postseason for a third consecutive year, two since Barnes has become head coach.
New athletic director John Currie has given Barnes a vote of conference, however, calling the popular Barnes “the perfect fit” for the Vols.
Tennessee improved from a 15-19, 13th-place finish in Barnes’ first season in Knoxville, despite playing the 2016-17 campaign with nine newcomers.
“There’s no better coach to coach this program and lead this university in men’s basketball than Rick Barnes,” Currie told the men’s basketball team.
The new players who have signed with Tennessee surely must agree.
The Vols did not hold a signing day press conference, however, Barnes did release statements and background information on the new players through the sports information department.
Tennessee basketball signee Yves Pons
“We’re very excited about the addition of Yves because he fits the culture and mentality of our program as a person, student and athlete. We’re all very thankful for the trust that he and his wonderful family back in France have placed in us. They’re wonderful people who have provided Yves with a strong foundation of character, accountability and work ethic. Yves will bring elite athleticism, explosiveness and versatility to our program—both on the perimeter and inside. He’s a long, athletic wing who can defend multiple positions, play fast and finish in transition, along with rebound on both ends. The SEC is one of the most physical and athletic leagues in the country, and those are two areas Yves and our team have a chance to excel in.”
Tennessee basketball signee Derrick Walker
Derrick is going to blend nicely into our team due to his combination of size, strength and toughness. We’re also excited about his basketball IQ and the fact that he’s a vocal defender, a good rebounder and an excellent ball-handler and passer for a player of his size. So there are a lot of signs that point to him being able to help us immediately. His next challenge is to get himself into great shape so that he can make the kind of impact we believe he’s capable of.
Tennessee basketball signee Zach Kent
“Zach obviously adds some needed size and length to our frontcourt, but he’ll also elevate our overall skill level with his ability to pass and shoot the ball, as well as his high basketball IQ. He’s got a solid inside game and is developing an ability to score with his back to the basket. He’s a tough, competitive kid. Playing under Coach Mantegna at Blair Academy this season will enhance his development even more.”