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Illinois Basketball: Decision Days



With the NBA Combine ending on Thursday, Illinois basketball faces three big decisions for next year’s roster. The decision to return to school or stay in the NBA draft for Terrence Shannon Jr. and Coleman Hawkins, and the decision to enroll at Illinois or elsewhere for RayJ Dennis loom large.

Terrence Shannon Jr.

As I mentioned in the Combine Check-In, Terrence Shannon Jr. had amazing athletic testing and decent shooting testing. He participated in both days of scrimmages but didn’t do anything that would greatly move his stock one way or another. If he decides to stay in the draft, he will almost assuredly get drafted. Shannon Jr.’s improvements at Illinois with his elite athletic testing make him a very strong prospect, especially for win-now teams.

To return to Illinois, Shannon Jr. would likely have not received any guarantees in the range he wants. All it takes is one team to tell him he’s getting a guaranteed contract for the math to become very simple. Illinois will put a good NIL number on the floor, and the Chicago native was a First Team All-Big Ten last year. It is possible that he, like the rest of us, is waiting for RayJ Dennis to make his call. Speaking of…

RayJ Dennis

After RayJ Dennis announced he was entering the transfer portal, there was a ton of smoke around Illinois. Dennis visited Champaign in early May before stopping by Michigan, Baylor and Utah. Despite Caleb Love’s decommitment from Michigan, I don’t really see the Wolverines as a fit for him. They struggled to pay Hunter Dickinson, and even with Dennis will very likely be a bubble team at best. Utah just created their first NIL collective this summer, and also probably won’t be a tournament team either.

That leaves Baylor, who can sell him on their multiple guard production the last few years. It’s nowhere near as close to home for the Plainsfield native, but if wants the surest ticket to the Big Dance Baylor gives him the best chance as the rosters currently stand. Without a number, it’s impossible to know what Illinois’ budget is. I would guess they can match whatever number Baylor provided if they really need to. A ‘Dead Period’ for the NCAA started today, meaning he will not be taking any more visits. There are a lot of factors in the Illini’s favor, but if it was done it would already be done.

Coleman Hawkins

Much like Shannon Jr., Hawkins didn’t do anything in the scrimmages to crazily impact his stock. Perhaps for Illini fans the most important thing that came from his time at the Combine was what he said to 247Sports’ Isaac Trotter. Hawkins mentioned he didn’t want to come back for “a decent year.” While there’s reason to be excited about the pieces the Illini have on the roster, it’s no sure shot to the Sweet 16 without some dominos.

Unlike Shannon Jr., Hawkins predicted draft position is not secured. He is almost universally a middle to late second round pick in mock drafts. “I feel like I’ll be OK either way” Hawkins said about his decision, “there’s negatives and positives for both.” If nothing else Hawkins speaks his mind. If the Illini add Dennis and Shannon Jr., it could very well be better than a decent year.

Brian is a former sports writer for the Daily Illini who has been covering Illinois Basketball for over 5 years. Brian is now the lead basketball reporter for Armchair Illini, the go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He has had work published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, USA Today and more.