The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

‘We’ve got the best fans in the nation’: Shannon, Hawkins prepare for last dance with Illinois men’s basketball

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The Daily Illini Photo File
Forward Coleman Hawkins and guard Terrence Shannon Jr. watch the jumbotron prior to taking on the Michigan State Spartans at State Farm Center on Jan. 13. Hawkins and Shannon Jr. will play their final season this year.

The buzz around basketball season in Champaign is back, along with two of the Illini’s best players from last season: fifth-year guard Terrence Shannon Jr. and senior forward Coleman Hawkins. With both veteran players putting the NBA on hold for the time being, Illinois is looking to be back in title contention heading into 2023-24.

The adjustment from being 100% focused on the NBA process to preparing for another year of college basketball hasn’t been overly distracting or difficult for Shannon and Hawkins. A big part of the reason why? The excitement of getting to play in front of the passionate Illini fanbase that rocks the State Farm Center week in and week out.

“Man, I can’t wait,” Shannon said. “Orange Krush, I feel like we’ve got the best fans in the nation. We’ve got the best student section in the nation, they’re always supporting us. All I’ve got is love for them man.”

Returning for his second season in Champaign, Shannon has quickly emerged as the squad’s star after an impressive debut year with Illinois. The guard averaged 17.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists across 31 appearances, earning a plethora of individual accolades as a result. Just as the Illini fans wait in anticipation to see the Chicago native back in Champaign, Shannon is equally looking forward to taking the floor in front of the uber-loyal support of the Orange Krush.

“They’ve been there for us all season, even when they tried to get into the Iowa game,” Shannon said. “Hey, man, they tried, they’re always giving it 100% for us. I love them for that and I feel like they’re going to continue to do the same this year.”

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    While the love has been mutual between Shannon and the fans, the same can be said when it comes to Hawkins, who has been an Illini fan favorite for years now. Even during the low moments of the past few seasons, the continued support through thick and thin hasn’t been something that the senior forward has overlooked during his time with the program.

    “Once (last) season ended, in my head I was like ‘ah s—, we didn’t win the Big Ten,’” Hawkins said. “But I’m walking around and everybody’s showing love like ‘Coleman, Coleman.’ So in my head, I was like ‘Wow, they really do care.’ No one’s ever negative, if it is it’s online and it’s something I can block out, but everyone’s always positive. It’s meant a lot to me just to see that and be a part of that. It’s been really special.”

    Averaging 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds last season, Hawkins has served as one of the most versatile pieces of head coach Brad Underwood’s roster. The Sacramento native has played important roles in Illinois’ recent trophy triumphs, namely the 2021 Big Ten tournament title as well as the 2022 Big Ten title. It’s rare to have a player of Hawkins’ caliber stick around for all four years, yet the Illini will get to enjoy the senior’s dunks and blocks one last season.

    The return of the veteran duo of Shannon and Hawkins has re-added two very special pieces of the 2022-23 squad. While big question marks were left over their spots during the offseason, Underwood no longer has to worry about how to fill those shoes.

    With unfinished business left on the table, particularly in regards to March, the guard and forward duo will have all eyes on them as early as Oct. 20 when the team tips off against Ottawa for their first exhibition game. While the pressure will be greater than ever in 2023-24, the veterans will be given one last dance in Champaign to try and win it all.

    “I’m really excited,” Hawkins said. “I think it’s gonna be really fun, it’s always really fun going out there and playing in front of everybody at State Farm Center, but it’s been great getting love.”

     

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    About the Contributor
    James Kim, Sports Editor
    My name is James Kim and I’m a senior studying English with a minor in business. This is my third year with The Daily Illini and it’s been an amazing ride so far. When I joined in fall 2021, I began as a staff writer for the sports section where I covered women’s tennis. In spring 2022, I became an assistant sports editor and started covering soccer and Illinois men’s basketball. From spring 2023 onwards I’ve been working as the sports editor! In addition to being an Illini and Real Madrid fanatic, I also love watching movies and TV shows. If you have any questions about writing for The DI, you can reach me at my email below. I-L-L!
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