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Illinois Basketball: How Terrence Shannon Jr. Fits Back In

A day after beating Michigan on the road, the Illinois basketball team got news that Terrence Shannon Jr. would return to the team.



Nov 10, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) drives to the basket as Oakland Golden Grizzlies forward Trey Townsend (4) defends during the first half at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Basketball star Terrence Shannon Jr is set to come back to the team after he was granted a preliminary injunction allowing him to play immediately.

Brad Underwood, and Illinois Basketball, face an interesting conundrum: how does Shannon fit back in on this team? It sounds like a silly question, I know. The truth is, that Illinois is now a different basketball team without Terrence Shannon. They are better offensively than they were with him, but they’ve taken quite a slide defensively without him.

There are a plethora of guys who figured out their place on the team without Shannon around. Marcus Domask, in particular, is rolling. He has become Illinois’ alpha dog over the last 6 games, averaging 19 points per game during that stretch. When Terrence Shannon was functioning as Illinois’ primary scorer of the basketball, Domask averaged just above 11.5 points per game. Domask struggled to find his way in the offense, often resigning himself to a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter.

Justin Harmon is another player who has stepped up for Illinois on the basketball court since Shannon’s suspension. Over the last 6 games, Harmon is averaging almost 11 points per game. Admittedly, his production has kind of been hit-or-miss game-to-game. Before Shannon’s departure, though, Harmon was averaging around 4 points per game.

Quincy Guerrier found consistency before Shannon was dismissed from the team, but he continued his excellent play since December 28th as well. He’s proven himself to be a reliable scorer in the Big 10, averaging about 13 points per game.

All of this begs the question: How does Terrence Shannon fit back into a team that found a little bit of its identity with guys who figured out new roles?

All you have to do is look at the Maryland game.

While Domask, Guerrier, Harmon, and even (especially) Coleman Hawkins have stepped up, the Sunday afternoon from hell that was the Maryland game exposed a bit of their weaknesses.

While Illinois Basketball has taken strides on the offensive end of the floor, their defensive play has taken a step back without Shannon. Jahmir Young was able to do anything he wanted with the basketball without much resistance, and Illinois’ paint defense was lackluster. We’ve seen Shannon engaged defensively and able to guard the opposing team’s best player, something Illinois could use again. He also can block shots and grab tough defensive boards. Illinois had a harder time against teams like Maryland and Michigan (first half) who had small guards with bigs capable of scoring. Shannon’s length, and ability to switch and start the fastbreak from anywhere should help get Illinois back on track defensively.

They also missed Shannon greatly offensively in that game. Domask tried to do everything on his own after Guerrier and Hawkins went cold but came up short. Illinois desperately needed another person to step up and carry the load, but with #0 nowhere to be found, they ended up losing to a bad Maryland team at home. Shannon’s ability to create his offense might be the most welcomed addition to the team.

There are around 20 points per game about to return to the court, which has some implications for the rest of the roster.

It would be foolish to expect the increased scoring numbers to stick from the players previously mentioned.

Shannon is an All-American who is a freight train with the ball in his hands. Domask’s 19 points a game will probably dip, the same goes for Harmon and maybe even Guerrier and Hawkins. It’s just the reality, however, Illinois desperately needs them to continue the way they are playing.

Domask will be the 2 to Shannon’s 1 for this team, but he needs to stay aggressive and hunt favorable matchups. There will be more booty ball opportunities, and the team (Shannon included) needs to recognize them. It would also help if Domask started to hit threes. While he found his stroke from the mid-range, the three-ball is a bit of a different story. The truth is, Domask will have open looks from three when Shannon goes downhill, and he has to start making a few more of them.

In terms of playtime, Harmon has probably benefitted the most, and he may see his minutes reduced. His best scoring opportunities will continue to come on catch-and-shoot corner threes. Illinois becomes a much better basketball team when he’s making them.

I am not nearly as worried about Guerrier and Hawkins, who had kind of figured themselves out before Shannon’s suspension. Though, they too, need to keep playing like themselves for this team to be at their best.

Shannon’s re-entry to the team brings with it a lot of questions for Brad Underwood to answer.

How he answers them remains to be seen, but I think Illinois will be happy to have their All-American back.

**all stats sourced from Sports Reference**

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Zach Leslie is one of original members of Armchair Illini, your go-to sources of University of Illinois news. He has sports content published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits and more. He is also one of the most talented videographers in Illini Nation and has published work on some of the most famous Cinema Review sites such as LetterBoxd.