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'It was surprising': Chris Ledlum's departure caught Tennessee coaches off guard

IMG_3593by:Grant Ramey07/18/23


When Chris Ledlum met with Tennessee basketball coaches Wednesday morning, the last thing they were expecting was for the transfer forward to say he was leaving the Vols. Just three months after making the move from Harvard, Ledlum had a change of heart.

The Staten Island, N.Y., native told head coach Rick Barnes that he wanted to get back closer to home. Associate head coach Justin Gainey said he never saw it coming.

“Yeah, it was surprising,” Gainey, Tennessee’s associate head coach, said Tuesday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena. “Something that caught us all off guard. Something that we weren’t expecting, obviously, coming off of the knee surgery that he was going through.”

Ledlum had meniscus surgery on July 9, sources told Volquest, and was expected to be out for a few weeks. He never made it that far with Tennessee, though, transferring three days after the surgery was performed.

“It kind of caught us off guard a little bit,” Gainey said.

Chris Ledlum averaged 18.8 points, 8.5 rebounds at Harvard last season

Ledlum committed to Tennessee in April, picking the Vols over Indiana and St. John’s. Last season he averaged 18.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in 28 games at Harvard. He averaged 16.7 points and 9.3 rebounds during a breakout sophomore season in 2021-22. 

He started 27 times in 28 games as a junior, averaging 31.5 minutes per game. Ledlum scored in double-figures 26 times this season and had nine double-doubles. In 70 games over the last three seasons at Harvard, Ledlum averaged 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.5 assists in 24.8 minutes per game.

“Obviously he’s a great player,” Gainey said of Ledlum. “We wish him nothing but the best. I hope he finds what he is looking for, finds happiness. As far as it goes with us, it’s been our mentality ever since I’ve been here, since Coach (Barnes) has been here, next man up.”

Vols ‘excited about JP Estrella’s development’

Ledlum was expected to be a contributor for Tennessee in the post, where 6-foot-11 center Jonas Aidoo returns for his junior season. The Vols also bring back sophomore power forward Tobe Awaka and brought in four-star freshman center JP Estrella, the 6-foot-11, 233-pounder from Scarborough, Maine. 

Awaka, while playing for Team USA in the FIBA U-19 World Cup this summer, led all players in rebounding and averaged a double-double, with 11.6 points and 10.6 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. 

Josiah-Jordan James, who was not on the roster at the time of Ledlum’s commitment in April, announced on May 31 that he would be returning to Tennessee for a fifth season. He’s another option at forward, along with Dalton Knecht, the 6-foot-6. 204-pound transfer from Northern Colorado.

“We’re really excited about JP Estrella’s development, where he’s going,” Gainey said. “Obviously Tobe has taken a major jump. Josiah is looking great, he’s healthy, probably the first healthy summer he’s had in a long time. So we’re just next man up, moving forward. Wish (Ledlum) the best.”

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