Sports

Terrence Shannon Jr. officially joins Illini


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —Nearly four years ago, Illinois hosted Terrence Shannon Jr. on an official visit and tried feverishly to land the top-100 prospect from Chicago before he ultimately chose Texas Tech.

But as things go in the college recruiting world, relationships matter and last week Illinois landed a verbal commitment from Shannon out of the transfer portal. The program announced on Monday that Shannon signed his Big Ten Tender of Financial Aid.

So what was important in landing Shannon almost four years later?

“I think it was fit,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “I think it was the idea of ​​coming home. I think all those things have come into play with him. He feels like our development can be terrific in helping him where he wants to go. He’s ultimately chasing that next-level dream. We had success with a guy he knows very, very well in Ayo (Dosunmu). I think there were a lot of great talking points that he felt very comfortable with.”

Shannon is a 6-foot-6-inch, 215-pound guard from Chicago, who went to IMG Academy for one season after high school. He played the last three seasons at Texas Tech, averaging 11.0 points (915) and 3.6 rebounds (299) in 83 games with 54 starts during his career with the Red Raiders.

He’s the first transfer portal addition for Illinois since the winter during an offseason that includes significant roster turnover, but an addition that should complement the rest of the roster and gives Underwood the kind of player on the wing that he has generally lacked during his first five seasons at Illinois. Plus, Underwood and Co. will need to reimagine how they play offensively and defensively in life after Kofi Cockburn. Shannon’s presence should help usher in a more up-tempo, versatile style of basketball.

“He fits everything that we do. Excited about his athleticism of him, ”Underwood said. “We’re talking about one of the elite athletes in America. We’re talking about a guy who is very, very versatile. He’s become a much better shooter in college than he was in high school. He can be a mid-to-high 30s, low 40s guy from 3 now as he continues to develop that part of his game. An elite defender with great, great speed, great anticipation. He’s got a great feel for the game. He has proven he’s a winner and he has done it at the highest levels.

“We’re excited to have him. He’s a great fit. He blends in great in our post-Kofi stuff that we’re going to have to do. He’s a great addition because he can attack the rim and add that with his jumper and our ability to play in transition. I expect him to be very Ayo-esque in terms of some of the same things Ayo did in transition, I think TJ can do. We’re very excited to have him.”

Shannon averaged 10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists this past season as a junior. He shot 45.5 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from 3-point range while helping lead Texas Tech to an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance. Shannon was a third-team All-Big 12 selection and Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award finalists as a sophomore, helping the Red Raiders to the NCAA Tournament Round of 32. He averaged a career-best 12.9 points with 4.0 rebounds on 44.8 percent shooting and 35.7 percent 3-point shooting.

Underwood was enamored with Shannon’s ability as a two-way player with the Mac Irvin Fire on the EYBL circuit out of high school and has watched as Shannon fine-tuned those skills with the Red Raiders over the course of the last three seasons.

“His versatility,” Underwood said of how Shannon improved at Texas Tech. “He’s obviously become a really good shooter. When we recruited him out of high school, I thought he had a chance to be one of the best two-way players in the country because he was a lockdown defender. On the EYBL circuit, he could shut anybody down. That hasn’t changed. He’s improved his jump shot from him. He’s a great downhill attacker. He’s gotten better in ball screens. They played in a lot more motion than ball screens, but I think that will be an area we can continue to help grow his game from him. I see him as a guy who just excels in what we do with his speed, his transition, his ability to get in the paint and finish. I just see a guy who can be very, very productive.”

Shannon has up to two years of eligibility remaining at Illinois, and Underwood said Shannon is finishing up the semester at Texas Tech. Shannon missed several games last season due to a back injury, but Underwood was not concerned about that being a recurring issue.

“It was isolated,” Underwood said. “He feels as close to 100 percent as he has in a long time. That’s the beauty, I think, of having an offseason. It’s also the advantage of having a great strength coach in Adam Fletcher and making sure we get that thing as close to back to normal as possible. He’s in good shape right now. He’s working out every day, he’s playing pick-up so he’s in a good spot and said he feels great.”

Underwood and his coaching staff have been patient in the transfer portal since the end of the season and have three more scholarships available to work with moving forward. The Illini lost Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams and Alfonso Plummer after each exhausted their eligibility. Kofi Cockburn declared for the NBA Draft for a third time, thus vacating his remaining collegiate eligibility. Jacob Grandison and austin hutcherson both declared for the draft, but haven’t announced any future intentions beyond that and each still have one year of eligibility remaining. Andre Curbelo (St John’s), Omar Payne (Jacksonville), Brandin Podziemsky (undecided) and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (undecided) have each entered the transfer portal.

Underwood made it clear that he and his coaching staff aren’t done adding to the roster of returners — Coleman Hawkins, R.J. Melendez, Luke Goode, Brandon Lieb and dain dainja — or the incoming freshmen — skyey clark, Jayden Epps, Ty Rodgers and Sencire Harris. But landing Shannon out of the portal was a splash for a team that is looking to reload and continue its run near the top of the Big Ten.

“We love his athleticism,” Underwood said of Shannon. “He’s gotten really strong. He was kind of a thin kid. As he’s matured and grown and aged, he’s become physically very, very strong. Elite athlete. I think he’s got a chance to be one of the outstanding athletes and not only in the Big Ten, but in the country.”

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