Shannon, Hawkins shine in Illinois men’s basketball season opener against Eastern Illinois

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Sydney Laput

Senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. shoots for a three pointer during the exhibition game against Quincy on Oct. 28.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

The Illinois men’s basketball veterans stepped up on Monday night as the team cruised to a 30-point victory over in-state neighbor Eastern Illinois. Junior forward Coleman Hawkins and senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr. were instrumental pieces of the Illini game plan, as both players guided the team to the 87-57 result with their strong performances.

Shannon’s performance demonstrates why he has been regarded as one of the top transfers in the country. The senior was a major thorn in the Panthers’ side throughout the game and his incredible athletic ability was put on full display with explosive plays on both sides of the court and lightning-quick speed on transitions. Needless to say, the Chicago native enjoyed a fruitful official debut in front of the Champaign fans.

“It felt good coming back home to Illinois,” Shannon said. “We’ve got a great fan base here, it was very welcoming. It was good to see my family in that crowd every day, it was a good feeling overall and we won the game so that’s even better.”

After a tight scoring race with Hawkins throughout the game, Shannon managed to come out on top to finish as the Illini’s top scorer of the night with 24 points. The Texas Tech transfer showcased his talent to draw fouls and made it to the free throw line 15 total times, converting 13 of those shots.

Fans got to witness Shannon’s hops on both ends of the floor in the first half as the senior ignited the arena with a monster dunk, followed by a strong block to stop what seemed like an assured layup for EIU. Shannon’s energy and speed of play served as a nuisance for the visiting Panthers while boosting the pace of the Illini’s game.

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    Hawkins also heavily impressed, particularly from beyond the arc. Despite struggles shooting from distance during the 2021–22 campaign, the forward’s hard work in the offseason to improve the three-point shot was evident.

    “I feel a lot more confident,” Hawkins said. “I shoot a lot of shots in practice just like that. I know my freshman year and sophomore year people would. I wasn’t confident at all back then, the ball felt a lot different than what it does right now.”

    It was night and day watching Hawkins shoot from range compared to last season. Against the Panthers, there were large stretches where it seemed like Hawkins could not miss. The Orange Krush’s energy never dropped as the junior nailed a combination of open threes, contested threes and threes from deep throughout the evening. Hawkins finished the game an impressive 5-8 from beyond the arc.

    Like Shannon, Hawkins was also a threat on both ends of the floor. Known last year for his height and ability in the rebounding department, Hawkins continued to remain a force in the paint, bringing down 12 rebounds against Eastern Illinois to complete the double-double.

    After quiet nights from sophomore guard RJ Melendez, freshman guard Skyy Clark and fifth-year guard Matthew Mayer, the Illini greatly benefited from the well-rounded performances of Shannon and Hawkins. The duo stepped up and played significant roles in running up the score on the Panthers, while providing fans with an exciting early look at what is just the beginning.

    “I feel like guys look up to guys like me and Coleman on the team,” Shannon said. “When they see us perform the way we did tonight, it just gives them more confidence because we’re encouraging them as we’re going along.”

     

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