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Justin Gainey reacts to Chris Ledlum’s decision to re-enter the transfer portal

He broke down the situation.

NCAA Basketball: Harvard at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee basketball took a curveball last week, learning that Harvard transfer Chris Ledlum would be hitting the transfer portal once again. The Volunteers won the battle for the versatile 6-6 forward back in the spring, but after just three months, Ledlum will be looking for another program.

Assistant coach Justin Gainey met with the media this week and addressed the situation.

“Yeah, it was surprising,” Gainey admitted. “It caught us all off guard. Something that we weren’t expecting, obviously, coming off of the knee surgery that he was going through so it kind of caught us off guard a little bit.”

Ledlum, at the time of his commitment, was going to fill a major role for Tennessee. However, things changed in a big way in the following months. The Vols brought back Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James, while landing 6-6 wing/guard Dalton Knecht. They also get back an emerging Tobe Awaka, fresh off of a big summer performance with the USA U19 team.

It’s unclear why Ledlum ultimately made the decision to leave, but it’s also unclear just how big of a role he would have had with all of those pieces now back in the mix.

“How does it affect us? Obviously he’s a great player,” Gainey said. “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.”

Ledlum, at minimum, was going to handle plenty of minutes at the four spot for Tennessee. The Volunteers have a thin frontcourt this year, and Ledlum’s versatility was going to be nice to have in certain spots. His departure certainly speeds things along for JP Estrella, a top 50 overall prospect from last year’s cycle.

UPDATE: Ledlum has since committed to St. Johns.

Estrella has already been talked up a good bit by the coaching staff, and appears to be in line to be the third big man on the floor this year. Awaka’s quick development also eases the blow.

“We’re really excited about JP Estrella’s development,” Gainey said. “Where he is going. 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. We’re just next man up moving forward, wish him the best.”

Tennessee will more than likely use plenty of four guard looks with James and Knecht shifting down at times.

We’ll have a chance to get a little preview in a couple of weeks as the team heads overseas. They’re set to play three exhibition matchups in Rome on August 4th, 5th and 7th. Those games will be carried by Flo Sports ($$).