The Tennessee basketball program will honor legendary All-American and SEC all-time 3-point king Chris Lofton by retiring his No. 5 jersey at halftime of this season’s home game against Kentucky on Saturday, Jan. 14.
Lofton becomes UT’s fifth men’s basketball player to be permanently honored in the Thompson-Boling Arena rafters. He joins Bernard King, Ernie Grunfeld, Allan Houston and Dale Ellis.
“As a recovering basketball player/coach myself—and having worked in college athletics since the early 2000s—I am extremely familiar with what an outstanding player Chris Lofton was during his time here,” Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White said. “Having now learned more about his incredible work ethic, the adversity he overcame and the amazing character he displayed—and continues to display—I can’t wait to experience Thompson-Boling Arena when we unveil his banner in the rafters.”
A native of Maysville, Kentucky, Lofton suited up for the Volunteers from 2004-08 and departed Knoxville as one of the most decorated players in program history.
Lofton earned AP All-America honors during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons at Tennessee and was named the 2007 SEC Player of the Year. He scored 2,131 career points during his four seasons as a Vol—a mark that still stands as the fourth-most in program history.
“It’s remarkable what a legacy Chris left here at Tennessee,” Vols head coach Rick Barnes said. “Since I’ve been here, I can’t count the number of fans who have told me Chris Lofton stories. And I know all too well the type of shot-maker he was in the game’s biggest moments. He’s extremely deserving of this prestigious recognition.”
One of the most prolific 3-point shooters in NCAA history, Lofton left his name etched in the record books for his shooting prowess from beyond the arc. He made more than 100 threes per season during each of his final three collegiate campaigns and finished his college career as the Tennessee and SEC all-time 3-point king with 431 makes—a record yet to fall. The 431 career made threes also ranked third in NCAA Division I history at the time of his departure from Tennessee.
His .422 career-3-point percentage (431-of-1,021) stands as the second-best all-time by a Vol, and he also owns the program record for 3-pointers made in a game (9) and the top two single-season totals for 3-point makes (118 in 2007-08 and 114 in 2005-06).
Lofton’s toughest battle at Tennessee, however, came off the court. Diagnosed with cancer at the end of his junior season, he quietly fought through radiation treatments leading into the 2007-08 campaign. Lofton’s bout with cancer didn’t become public knowledge until more than a month following the conclusion of his senior season.
Despite undergoing cancer treatments between his junior and senior years, Lofton authored a senior campaign that earned him a spot on the 2008 Wooden All-America Team. During his final season on Rocky Top—which saw Tennessee ascend to a No. 1 ranking in the AP Top-25 Poll for the first time in program history and win a program-record 31 games—Lofton started all 36 contests while leading the team in scoring (15.5 ppg) and 3-point shooting (.384).
Lofton’s junior season saw him capture the 2007 SEC Player of the Year award, as he won the SEC’s scoring title with a career-best 20.8-points-per-game average. In addition to his SEC honor, Lofton was a consensus second-team All-American in 2007 and made the national ballot for the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy.
Lofton first burst onto college basketball’s national scene as a sophomore in 2005-06—leading the Vols to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament by posting team-best totals in scoring (17.2 ppg), 3-point percentage (.437), 3-point makes (114), field-goal makes (174), steals per game (2.0 spg) and minutes (31.9 mpg).
As a freshman, he averaged 13.2 points and shot .465 from beyond the arc—the second-best single-season 3-point percentage in program history. His 93 3-pointers made also ranked second on Tennessee’s single-season list and were the most ever by an SEC freshman—breaking LSU’s Chris Jackson’s SEC freshman record of 84 in 1988-89.
Following his time at Tennessee, Lofton embarked on a 10-year professional playing career in Spain, Russia, Turkey, France, Lithuania and South Korea.
He was named the Tennessee Basketball All-Century Team in 2009, completed his UT degree in 2010, and he was inducted into the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.