The men’s basketball locker room at St. John’s is getting cramped.
On Wednesday afternoon, former Harvard standout Chris Ledlum has flipped to St. John’s after originally signing with Tennessee. Initially, Ledlum chose the Volunteers over St. John’s and Indiana when he announced his original commitment in April.
With the addition of Ledlum (and subsequent departure of power forward Quinn Slazinski to West Virginia), the Red Storm now have a whopping 14 scholarship-worthy players on next year’s roster. All signs to point towards one of the players on this team receiving name, image, and likeness (NIL) compensation to cover tuition costs to walk on if no other player hits the portal. A glaring question to ask is how will Chris Ledlum get integrated into a very deep roster?
When looking at his adept feel for the game, carnage-inducing defensive play-style, and high motor, it’s clear why Pitino and his staff targeted Ledlum twice in the same portal cycle.
Strength: inside scoring
Much like Penn and Jordan Dingle, Harvard’s entire team was built around Chris Ledlum. He had a usage percentage of 32.5 percent, which was tenth-highest in the country and he more than doubled the number of field goal attempts of the next most-frequent scorer on the Crimson, putting up 419 shots to Evan Nelson’s 204. Considering all of the responsibility he shouldered, Ledlum delivered for the most part.
Listed as 6-foot-6, Chris Ledlum plays well above his listed height, which is how he made shots with good efficiency inside the arc, shooting 55.8 percent from two.
Looking at his shot chart from last season, he was an above-average scorer within 5 feet of the basket. His three-point shooting numbers are gaudy (which we’ll talk about later), but he is able to attack the basket off-the-dribble or in the post with good efficiency.
He is strong enough to bully smaller guards and he is quick enough to beat taller players off the bounce. In the clip below, all it takes is one crossover dribble to get past now-current Butler Bulldog Jahmyr Telfort.
His great feel for positioning, a solid handle, and crafty footwork allow him to spot up and make contested buckets at the basket. Here against Siena, he shimmies his way into the post and hooks a layup off the glass.
Strength: on-ball and off-ball defense
Perhaps Chris Ledlum’s most underrated skill is his ability to create mayhem for other teams. Last season, he was one of only eight players in the country to record a block percentage of 4 percent or better and a steal percentage of 3 percent or better.
Ledlum’s advanced understanding of where he belongs on the floor creates opportunities where he can force a turnover out of nowhere. He often picked up steals from punching the ball away from an unsuspecting dribbler or a poor pass.
On blocks, Ledlum shadows the ball-handler stride-for-stride and his long wingspan can make up any distance he misses. These rejections won’t make any Sportscenter Top 10s, but they will be effective.
He regularly punished his matchup in on-ball situations as well. According to BartTorvik, Ledlum had a 92.7 adjusted defensive rating (100 being average) last season, which would have led the 2022-23 Red Storm.
Chris Ledlum is also exceptional at cleaning up the glass for a smaller power forward. Last season, he had a 9.6 percent offensive rebounding percentage and a 22.6 percent defensive rebounding percentage. Joel Soriano’s 25 double-doubles from last season show he does not necessarily need help collecting the boards, but Ledlum’s presence should allow Soriano to menace the opposing big without worrying about giving up too many second chance opportunities. Last season, Ledlum was a major reason why Harvard was 23rd in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage allowed (24.3%).
Weakness: three-point shooting
Looking back at the shot chart above, it is clear that deep-range shooting is not Ledlum’s forte. He isn’t a bad three-point shooter in that teams will desert him completely, but he isn’t a good one. His best three-point shooting campaign was in 2021-22 when he shot a pedestrian 31.5 percent, and that was with a sample size of 54 attempts.
However, many of the shots Ledlum took from beyond-the-arc were off-the-dribble. With ball-handling guards like Jordan Dingle, Simeon Wilcher, and Daniss Jenkins handling the dribbling workload, Ledlum might see more opportunities to take catch-and-shoot threes.
Don’t expect Chris Ledlum to carry the same workload he had last year at Harvard, but the 6-foot-6, 225 pound power forward will bring a bully-ball style of basketball to Queens which will pair well next to Joel Soriano and Zuby Ejiofor in Rick Pitino’s pressure defense.
If you’re going to miss Posh Alexander’s propensity to create chaos, you will certainly enjoy Ledlum wreaking havoc on opposing offenses next year. His three-point numbers leave a lot to be desired, but there is a chance of a resurgence if he starts out next season as a catch-and-shoot option.
The former four-star recruit out of Brooklyn had minor surgery on his meniscus in his right knee earlier this month, but he is expected to return to workouts in mid-August, according to Zach Braziller of the New York Post.