March Madness: Terrence Shannon, Illinois remains silent on ongoing rape case ahead of Sweet 16

By | March 27, 2024

Content warning: This article contains images of alleged sexual abuse.

Terrence Shannon is with his team this week, preparing for the Illini’s first Sweet 16 appearance in nearly two decades, as is business as usual.

But during the NCAA tournament, whether they take on Iowa State on Thursday in Boston or make it to the national championship game next month in Phoenix, Shannon will be quiet.

Shannon “will remain unavailable to the media during the postseason” on “the advice of his legal counsel,” the Illini announced before the tournament began. Shannon, who was accused of rape in Kansas in December before a brief legal battle allowed him back in court the following month, has not spoken about his case other than a brief social media post in January.

That strategy, for better or worse, is what both he and Illinois are sticking to.

“I’ve said many times that I’m a college basketball coach,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said Wednesday from TD Garden. “When we found out, it was our athletic director Josh Whitman who informed me. Then it was a decision that was made by the university and then obviously taken to court, and I said all along that I was going to coach the guys that I had in the locker room. I would be the best supporter of the guys I coach every day. We had to find a way to thrive through these difficult times.

“Then he came back and joined us, he was part of our team again. He has always been a great teammate. We got him back, and here we are today.

Terrence Shannon’s arrest, legal battle

Shannon’s legal troubles date back to an incident at a bar in Lawrence, Kansas, in September.

Shannon was in Kansas for the Jayhawks’ football game against Illinois on September 8, and he went to a bar near campus that evening. The alleged victim told police that a man, whom she later identified through photos and social media as Shannon, groped her under her skirt and underwear and sexually assaulted her in the crowded bar. She reported the incident to police the next day and visited a local hospital for a sexual assault examination.

Shannon’s lawyers have repeatedly said he is innocent, pointing to the lack of witness statements and very clear surveillance evidence as “the alleged incident took place in a very public bar,” they wrote in a court filing.

However, Illinois suspended Shannon indefinitely on December 28 after an arrest warrant was issued in Kansas. He quickly filed a motion with a federal judge, and he was granted a temporary restraining order that forced Illinois to reinstate him on January 19. Shannon, the judge said in her ruling, would “suffer irreparable harm without an injunction.”

Shannon missed a total of six games during that suspension. He returned on January 21 to help Illinois beat Rutgers and received a standing ovation from the home crowd in Champaign. However, three days later he was roughed up on the road in Evanston, Illinois, during Northwestern’s win.

Shannon’s case is still pending and he is not due back in court until May.

Terrence Shannon and Illinois will take on Iowa State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.

Terrence Shannon and Illinois will take on Iowa State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Shannon led Illinois to the Sweet 16

Although Illinois largely survived without him during the suspension, he is a big reason why the Illini were able to make their first Sweet 16 appearance this spring for the first time since 2005.

Shannon averaged a team-high 23.3 points, which is the third-highest performance in the country behind only Denver’s Tommy Bruner and Purdue’s Zach Edey. He led the Illini past Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament title game with 34 points, a day after dropping 40 to push them past Nebraska in the semifinals.

Illinois also had a pair of dominant wins in the NCAA Tournament. It defeated both Morehead State and Duquesne by double figures in the first two rounds, where Shannon averaged 28 points per game.

“He’s done a great job of just being a dominant player,” teammate Coleman Hawkins said Wednesday. “I feel like a lot of times it gets difficult in the postseason because everyone knows your plays, but we kept everything pretty simple. He has done a great job of being a reliable source who can score at any time, whether a play breaks down or not. Seeing his speed and physicality dominate matchups has been really great to see.”

On Thursday night, the Illini will face Iowa State in the Sweet 16. A win would send them to the Elite Eight for the first time since reaching the national championship game under Bruce Weber in 2005.

Although he has had a lot to do off the field, Shannon seems to have found a way to put it behind him during the second half of the season. More eyes are on him now that they’ve reached the regional round of the tournament, but his strategy isn’t changing. For now, he’ll just stick to basketball.

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