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Rick Pitino wants struggling Chris Ledlum to focus on defense

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Rick Pitino admitted the obvious, that Chris Ledlum is searching for his game on the offensive end.

The St. John’s coach wants him to channel that frustration into defense. 

“The way to make up for it is to play awesome defense,” Pitino said after the Johnnies’ 88-81 loss to Dayton in the Charleston Classic semifinals. “You’re guarding a guy on the perimeter that’s 90 percent right hand, and you’ve gone over it, and you give him his right hand for a three-point play.” 

It’s been a difficult tournament for Ledlum, who has taken 17 shots and missed 14 of them.

An All-Ivy League first team selection for Harvard last season, the 6-foot-6 Ledlum is still looking to find his niche with the Johnnies. 

“If he drops the ball going baseline or misses a shot, that’s just part of basketball,” Pitino said. “But it’s not part of basketball when you give somebody his right hand who is right-hand dominant.” 

Ledlum (nine points, nine rebounds) was far from the only St. John’s player who struggled on the defensive end in the loss to Dayton.

Michigan's Olivier Nkamhoua (13) drives past St. John's Chris Ledlum (8) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, in New York.
Michigan’s Olivier Nkamhoua (13) drives past St. John’s Chris Ledlum (8) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, in New York.

The Flyers shot 51.8 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from deep. It was a team-wide problem, particularly over the last 13 minutes when St. John’s was outscored by 12. 

St. John’s will face Utah in the third-place game Sunday at 5:30 p.m. 

Zuby Ejiofor, a sophomore transfer forward from Kansas, has begun to find his game. He played well Thursday in limited action and was even better against Dayton. Ejiofor had nine points, six rebounds and a block in 11 minutes off the bench. 

RJ Luis went through pregame warmups, but remained out.

RJ Lewis did not play vs. Dayton.
RJ Lewis did not play vs. Dayton.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The UMass transfer has yet to appear in a game this season after suffering a broken left hand on Oct. 1. 

“It’s not my call. It’s the doctor’s call,” Pitino said. “He has a pressurized machine and it has to be where he has 80 percent strength

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