Over the last 36 hours, it’s hard to find many teams that have had more success in men’s college basketball than the Tennessee Volunteers. They picked up sharpshooter Jordan Gainey, retained First Team All-SEC guard Santiago Vescovi, and, most recently, added Harvard swingman Chris Ledlum in the transfer portal over the Indiana Hoosiers.
Anyone who’s watched Tennessee basketball over the last two seasons knows they’ve consistently struggled in three areas: offense, consistent play from the wings, and finding major contributors from the transfer portal. With the former First Team All-Ivy member taking his talents to Knoxville, Coach Rick Barnes and the Tennessee Volunteers might have found their solution to all three issues at once.
As a natural realist, some would say pessimist, I think it’s important to start with some of Ledlum’s deficiencies, actually let’s call them areas of growth, to keep expectations realistic. So what doesn’t Chris Ledlum do well:
- For starters, Ledlum is every definition of the word “tweener.” In the age of positionless basketball, this term is getting used less and less, but he’s a 6’6” forward that sometimes struggles to separate himself from being either an undersized PF or an oversized SF. Standing at 6’6” and only 225 pounds in the SEC could cause some issues for him underneath. Is it fair to criticize the size of a Power 5 basketball player as I sit at my laptop, 6’1”, fat, and unathletic? Maybe not. Can his size still cause him issues whether or not it’s fair for me to the be one calling them out? Yes, yes it can.
- He’s not going to stretch the floor or improve Tennessee’s issues from behind the arc. Ledlum shot just 29% from three last year while taking five three-pointers per game. With the loss of Olivier Nkamhoua, a 33% three-point shooter, Tennessee will need to see some improvement in this area of Ledlum’s game if they hope to feature him similarly to the way they did Nkamhoua in last year’s offense.
- He shoots 63% from the free throw line. It’s not awful for a front court player, but Tennessee fans would like to watch that number climb closer to Ledlum’s sophomore more year average of 69%.
Now that we’ve acknowledged some areas that need improving in Ledlum’s game, why exactly should fans be excited about an undersized forward from a mid-major conference? I mean at the top of the article I called him a single solution to three lingering problems — that needs to be justified. To put it simply Chris Ledlum is a dude who gets buckets. Over the last two seasons he’s averaged 17.7 points while shooting 52% from the field. That’s called offensive consistency — something Tennessee hasn’t had from their front court since Grant Williams was on the roster.
Last year alone he scored in 26 of Harvard’s 28 games and, more importantly, was not afraid to be the guy to take the shot in a critical situation, a glaring issue for Tennessee last season.
Ledlum’s rebounding ability is also second to none, as he lead the entire Ivy League with 8.4 rebounds per game. Following a disappointing loss in the Sweet 16 to FAU, where defensive rebounding was a major factor, and with two members of the front court most likely gone to the portal, adding some extra meat down low wasn’t just a desire for Rick Barnes, it was a necessity. In addition to his scoring and rebounding prowess, Ledlum’s defensive skillet is nothing to scoff at either, leading the Crimson in steals (50) and was second on the team in blocks (31) last year.
So what exactly is Tennessee getting by adding Chris Ledlum to the roster? They’re getting consistency. They’re getting someone not afraid of the moment. And most importantly, they’re getting better as a team.