‘I’m looking forward to my day in court’

For the first time since December 22, Terrence Shannon Jr. spoke to reporters during media availability at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago on Tuesday. That broke a near six-month media silence for the Illinois basketball star since he was arrested on a charge of rape in Kansas in late December, won a federal case to have his team suspension overturned and led Illinois to a Big Ten Tournament title and Elite Eight appearance with one of the best seasons in Illini basketball history.

“It’s been a while, but I enjoy talking to my media,” Shannon told assembled reporters in Chicago, including 247Sports’ Isaac Trotter. “I don’t have a problem with it. It’s just been a while.”

After a preliminary hearing last week in Douglas County (Kan.), Shannon was ordered to stand trial on June 10 for a first-degree felony rape and felony sexual aggravated battery charges stemming from an alleged incident that happened on Sept. 9, 2023, at Jayhawk Cafe while Shannon was attending the Illinois at Kansas football game.

Both Shannon and the alleged victim testified about the incident last Friday. Judge Sally Pokorny found probable cause for the trial to proceed.

The trial will begin on June 10,  just two weeks prior to the 2024 NBA Draft (June 27), putting the draft stock of Shannon — the third leading scorer in the NCAA last season — in doubt.

Shannon (23.0 points last season) on Tuesday said he hasn’t yet talked to NBA teams but said that his lawyers have advised him not to speak much about his ongoing legal situation.

“I know they’ll be asking me questions about it. I just can’t really go in that much detail about it,” Shannon said. “…Just explain the kind of person that I am. I feel like I’m a good kid. I make sure everybody’s good, and I just take care of everybody around me.”

Shannon also did not participate in his scheduled athletic testing time on Monday, and he will not participate in 5-on-5 scrimmages throughout the rest of the week in Chicago due to a hamstring injury.

“I strained my hamstring,” Shannon said, “but I’ve been doing treatment on it and I’ll be fine, man. I’ll be back soon.”

Shannon was automatically suspended indefinitely by Illinois after he turned himself in for his arrest. But after filing for a temporary restraining order against the university, a federal judge overturned his suspension and Illinois reinstated him to the team after he served a six-game suspension.

After showing some early rust in his return to the court, Shannon was among the best players in college basketball during the final two months of the season. During his final 18 games, he averaged 25.4 points on 47.1% shooting including 36.7% from the field.

One of CBS Sports’ four mock drafts for 2024 include Shannon in it (No. 28 overall).

Outside of his age — Shannon is 23, old for an NBA Draft prospect — Shannon doesn’t have many questions as an NBA Draft prospect. But his legal situation is clearly a big question mark heading into next month’s draft.

“I feel like I bring intensity and with the intensity, really high character,” Shannon said of what he can bring to an NBA team. “I compete at the highest level and I’m never going to take no days off. I’m a hard worker and I’m willing to do whatever for any team. Whatever they need me to do, I’m willing to do it.”

Shannon repeatedly said he’s in a good spot mentally. During the season, Shannon clearly found a way to compartmentalize his emotions and focus on basketball. He succeeded despite taunts about his rape charge from opposing fan bases. He had one of the best postseasons in Illinois history despite a lawsuit hanging over him. He credited his family, his Illinois teammates and Illini coaches for supporting him through the past several months.

“I don’t think it’s hard to focus at all,” Shannon said. “I feel like once you got your mind set on something and you put your mind to it, you’re going to do that and that’s me controlling what I can control day to day, going to the gym, going to the weight room, talking with my agent and talking with my family and I feel like I’ve been doing a pretty good job at that.

“I’m fine, perfectly fine mentally. Like I said, controlling what I can control and that’s handling things day to day and that’s plenty work and getting ready for my dream to play in the NBA.”

Clearly, basketball provided a respite for Shannon, who earned First Team All-Big Ten honors and Second Team All-American honors from 247Sports and CBS Sports.

“I mean it feels good to accomplish things, break records and have success with my team,” Shannon said. “We did a lot of things that people didn’t think that we can do and just to prove people wrong. I feel like we did a really good job of just staying in our own lane and controlling what we can control. …It felt good playing with my teammates again, playing a game that I love. It felt good. It felt really good.”

Shannon knows people outside of his circle have plenty of questions about him and the accusations against him — and not just opposing fan bases. NBA teams certainly have those questions too.

He tried to answer some of those during Tuesday’s media availability but clearly was not willing or advised to say too much with his ongoing legal situation. He hopes he can answer those questions when he stands trial in Kansas just a few weeks before the NBA Draft.

“I have trial June 10th,” Shannon said. “I can’t really talk much about it, but I’m looking forward to my day in court.  …I feel like people are going to have their opinion on you no matter what. No matter what you’re going through or if you’re not going through anything, everybody is going to have their opinion on you and … you can’t let other people’s opinions affect you.

“I just feel like with things like that, you just got to let your game speak for yourself. It’s going to be distractions everywhere, no matter if you got something going on or not. You just got to learn how to tune everything out and focus on the game. …Everybody going to face adversity in life, but it’s all about how you respond to it. It’s all about how you respond to it. Can’t just sit and pout. You got to just face it head-on. That’s how it made me a better leader. “

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