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Making the Leap: Yves Pons

Will Pons find consistent minutes?

Vanderbilt v Tennessee Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images

I can’t write a story for our “Making the Leap,” series about Yves Pons and not start it out with video of him jumping from the free-throw line and dunking a basketball.

#WellActually I mean, I guess I could. But I won’t. No such egregious injustice shall prosper on my watch. No, sir/ ma’am.

“Siri, show me poetry in motion.”

It’s 15 feet horizontally from the free-throw line to the rim, and it’s 10 feet vertically from the ground to the rim. That’s an actual human person soaring through the air looking like more bird than mammal. It’s just an incredible amount of ground to cover with a single jump (Bound? Leap? Flight?)

Whatever – the athleticism required to pull that off is just plain nuts. But allow me to segue here, because that’s where we come to a crossroads with Pons.

He’s been on the NBA radar since his high school days in France because he jumps out of the gym, and because he jumps off the screen (word play intended) as an athlete even when he’s surrounded by other athletes. His build is naturally shredded, and his frame is big enough to carry 230 or 240 pounds without losing quickness or speed. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 with a reported 7-foot wingspan, and it’s very possible he’s still growing.

But therein, as they say, lies the rub: Pons looks like an athlete who just happens to be playing basketball rather than a basketball player. He’s definitely an Olympic-level athlete at something. Tennis? Wrestling? Golf? I’m not sure which, not yet anyway. Basketball, maybe?

He’s listed as a guard on Tennessee’s roster, and he spent most of his freshman and sophomore years on the perimeter, crashing the lane for rebounds or blocks and running the floor to Oop when Jordan Bone or Jordan Bowden would Alley.

With guys like Grant Williams, Kyle Alexander and Admiral Schofield accounting for the majority of the minutes in the post, it was kind of just ‘get in where you fit in’ for Pons.

Next season, though, Barnes has a different role planned for the junior Frenchman.

Terry wrote about this a couple days ago, and I’m going to borrow from it a little but you should go read the entire story here.

“At this point in time, we’ll be playing through our guards to our post guys,” Barnes said on Wednesday. “That’s not to say we’re not working every day to develop the post play. Just like we did with Grant and Admiral as a post player, new to the perimeter. Yves Pons, we’ve treated him the opposite because there wasn’t much space on the front line. We’re going to move him to the front line a little bit. We think that will help him. Also playing on the perimeter the last couple years has helped him.”

For all the wonderful things Pons does on the court, there are areas in which he struggles. His handle is rough, his shot needs work and he’s not that great of a passer. The abundance of athleticism and lack of above average dribbling and shooting seem to fit the template of a post player more than that of a guard or wing anyway.

His per 40-min numbers support the role change, too. He’s second among returning players in total rebounds (6.0) and the combined blocks-plus-steals category (2.6). For context, John Fulkerson leads the team in both areas with 8.8 and 4.0, respectively. Further, Pons is a 67 percent shooter on 2-point shots, but his accuracy drops to a paltry 28 percent when he steps outside to 3-point range.

Pons is raw and unrefined in areas that guards need to be tight and polished while he excels in the places where post players often shine. Perhaps a summer of playing with the French U20 National Team and a new role, more suited to his natural abilities, will help his game . . . reach new heights . . .

8^ )