Tuesday night's basketball game between Mississippi State and No. 18 Tennessee inside Thompson-Boling Arena has the makings of an entertaining block party.
Bulldogs fifth-year senior forward Abdul Ado and Volunteers senior guard/forward Yves Pons have combined for a staggering 331 blocked shots in their respective college careers, including a combined 190 since the start of last season. The 6-foot-11 Ado and the 6-6 Pons are constructed quite differently but routinely achieve the same result, much to the dismay of the opposition.
Being recognized as "shot blockers" in basketball may have the same connotation to some as a "game manager" for quarterbacks in football, but Tennessee sixth-year coach Rick Barnes is more than happy to possess somebody who can affect a game in that way.
"I think it's a good thing to be known for," Barnes said Monday afternoon on a Zoom call. "When you get a guy who does that, it's a talent, and it's someone who wants to do it. It's a game-changer when you have a guy who can fix a play, and these guys do it in two different ways.
"Ado is long and athletic, while Yves is long but not that long and has tremendous jumping ability and timing."
Ado is averaging 2.06 blocks per contest (33 in 16 games) this season and Pons 2.0 (26 in 13), and they are among the four Southeastern Conference players averaging at least 2.0 blocks a game, with Kentucky's Isaiah Jackson and Florida's Colin Castleton being the others.
Before signing with Mississippi State in 2016, Ado was a four-star prospect at Hamilton Heights, having arrived in Chattanooga from Lagos, Nigeria. As a Hamilton Heights senior, he averaged 7.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks on a 27-3 team that captured the National Christian Tournament title.
After redshirting the 2016-17 season in Starkville, Ado quickly made his deterring presence known with 67 blocks as a redshirt freshman. The 255-pounder has 215 career blocks and is on pace to rank third in program history in career blocks per game behind Jarvis Varnado and Erick Dampier.
Ado will enter Thompson-Boling having started in 113 out of 114 career games for the Bulldogs.
Pons, who hails from Fuveau, France, is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year after a junior season in which he tallied 73 blocks. He has added 26 more this season, including five in the second half alone during the loss earlier this month to Alabama, giving him 99 since the start of last season, a total that tops the 91 by Ado in the same stretch.
"It's a great thing to have, and it's obviously something people love to see when a guy goes up there and swats something away at the rim when you think you've got something easy," Barnes said. "Both of them should be commended on the fact they take great pride in doing that."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.