Citing that he wanted to "walk off the court on my terms," Tennessee forward John Fulkerson announced Friday that he will return for a sixth basketball season for the Volunteers.
Fulkerson, whose 2020-21 season was cut short by a concussion and facial fracture sustained by a flagrant elbow from Florida forward Omar Payne in the Southeastern Conference tournament, is using the NCAA's one-time extra year of eligibility that was established due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The 6-foot-9, 215-pounder made his announcement through a three-minute video he posted on Twitter.
"My path still points to Rocky Top," Fulkerson said in the video. "This opportunity is too special to walk away from. Vol Nation, I'm back."
Fulkerson will add to his whopping 132 games played for the Vols, which includes 62 starts and a career 56.7% shooting percentage.
As a freshman in the 2016-17 season, Fulkerson played in the first 10 games and averaged 4.7 points and 4.6 rebounds, but a dislocated right elbow resulted in a season-ending setback and an eventual medical redshirt. He was a key contributor off the bench for the 2018-19 Vols, who went 31-6 and spent a program-record four consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams were the veteran leaders of that team, which reached the 2019 NCAA tournament's Sweet 16, but Fulkerson assumed those reins during the 2019-20 season, leading the Vols with 13.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. Fulkerson's highest-scoring output of his career occurred that season on a notable stage, as he tallied 27 points as the Vols spoiled Kentucky's senior night festivities with an 81-73 win at Rupp Arena.
Fulkerson was more inconsistent this past season, when his averages dipped to 9.5 and 5.5.
"I know I haven't been perfect," Fulkerson said in the video, "but I hope I've made people proud and that I haven't let anyone down."
The Vols will have six players returning from this past season's 18-9 team that lost to Oregon State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, with Fulkerson joining Victor Bailey, Josiah-Jordan James, Santiago Vescovi, Olivier Nkamhoua and Uros Plavsic. They also have six signees: five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler, five-star power forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, four-star center Jonas Aidoo, four-star small forward Jahmai Mashcak, three-star shooting guard Quintin Diboundje and guard Justin Powell, a transfer who played this past season as an Auburn freshman.
Tennessee's 2021 signing class is ranked second nationally by 247Sports.com, trailing only Michigan.