A thank you letter to Illinois basketball legend Terrence Shannon Jr.

Terrence Shannon Jr. was a legend for the Illinois basketball program, and it is time to give him his flowers
Mar 28, 2024; Boston, MA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) reacts against the Iowa State Cyclones in the semifinals of the East Regional of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2024; Boston, MA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) reacts against the Iowa State Cyclones in the semifinals of the East Regional of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports / Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Every time I mention a new recruit potentially coming into the Illinois basketball program, I talk about the departures.

I mention that I have never seen anything like what the Illini have gone through this offseason. Losing all but two players from an Elite 8 roster is crazy.

Illinois fans actually did go through something very similar back in 2021, though. After a solid run to the Round of 32 and a defeat to Houston, the Illini roster blew up. Kofi Cockburn tried to go professional, Jacob Grandison transferred, Andre Curbelo transferred, a future first-round pick in Brandin Podziemski transferred, and we lost three players to graduation.

Brad Underwood was left with four returning scholarship players, and the best option averaged 5.9 points per game. That offseason was crucial for Underwood, and like always, he delivered.

In steps, Terrence Shannon Jr. Illinois struck out with Shannon the first time around. The Chicago native picked Texas Tech. But after three seasons, he hit the transfer portal and could have picked anyone. His choice?


That means a lot to Illinois fans. We didn’t have a roster to the naked eye that could compete, but Shannon came back home and wanted to shine.

Literally, the combined average points of the four returning scholarship players were 12.6 points per game. Shannon had no inkling that the Illini were going to be good. He didn’t know how the roster would play out or how he would gel with others. Shannon took the ultimate leap of faith.

Thank you, Terrence, for picking Illinois and taking a chance on us.

That first season in Champaign was kind of clunky. As mentioned before, Shannon didn’t know how well the team would gel, and from an outside perspective, it didn’t look like they gelled too well.

Shannon still averaged 17.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 steals per game for the Orange and Blue. Illinois made it back to the NCAA tournament as a No. 9 seed, but we were eliminated by No. 8 Arkansas.

After the season, Shannon could have easily gone to the NBA. He might not have gotten drafted, but he had spent four years in college, and we just saw Kofi enter the NBA without a draft guarantee.

Instead, Shannon decided not to go to the professional ranks. He made the choice to come back to Illinois and improve his game and improve the team. He could have been a one-and-done with the program, but he returned to Champaign for one more ride.

Thank you, Terrence, for coming back to Illinois for one more season.

A part of the struggles of the 2022-23 Illinois basketball team was that they just didn’t mesh well together. You could see the chemistry just wasn’t there with that team. I also believe no one stepped up as a leader.

Shannon came back for one more season and did two things that I noticed. The first was that he improved his game greatly. He became much more efficient on the offensive end of the court, and he was an improved defender.

The second is that Shannon became a leader for the Illinois basketball team. This was his team. He was our LeBron James, Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant. Everything went through him. He wasn’t an egomaniac, though.

Shannon led by example as well as being a vocal leader. He didn’t have to dominate the ball to be effective. Just him being on the court was an asset to the Illini. Shannon could have said give me the ball and get out of the way. He would have averaged 35 points each game. But he didn’t. He knew that wasn’t the way to win games.

Both the improved efficiency in Shannon’s game and the ability to guide this team to great heights show his great leadership. He took the challenge of being the leader on this team, and it means a lot to the Illinois fanbase.

Thank you, Terrence, for embracing the leadership role on the Illinois basketball team.

Terrence Shannon Jr. is getting the ultimate Illinois basketball honor

It was a two-year ride that no Illinois fan will ever forget. Shannon meant a lot to this program. This past season was especially special.

Shannon was the leader of a 29-win Illinois basketball team. We finished second in the Big Ten last season, falling just short of Purdue, which would eventually get to the national championship game.

Illinois entered the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 2 seed and took down Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin on our way to a Big Ten Tournament title. Shannon averaged 34.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.7 steals in that stretch. He earned Big Ten Tournament MVP and a spot on the All-Big Ten Tournament Team.

The big issue for Underwood teams was that we couldn’t get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Illinois hadn’t made it past the Round of 32. Shannon ended all of that chatter.

Illinois entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed. We breezed by No. 14 Morehead State by 16 points in the first round. No. 11 Duquesne was no match for the Illini in the second round, as we torched them by 26 points.

Shannon did it. He led Illinois to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005. He wasn’t done there, though. Illinois then upset No. 2 Iowa State to get to the Elite 8, another first since 2005. Shannon ended the NCAA tournament averaging 23.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game.

Shannon is now done playing for the Illinois basketball program. He is heading off to the NBA where he is currently projected as a first-round selection. But there is one more thing the Illini are doing for the star guard.

This past Thursday, the Illinois basketball program announced that Shannon’s number 0 is going up in the rafters. His jersey will rest alongside the likes of Ayo Dosunmu, Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Nick Anderson, and others. He is a legend for the Illinois basketball program and is getting the accolades he has earned.

Thank you for everything, Terrence. It was a fun ride.

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