CHAMPAGNE- The alarm is ringing Terrence Shannon Jr.at the bedside from 4:20 a.m.
Just 25 minutes later, he is on the court at the Ubben Basketball Complex. It doesn’t take long for him to go from his soft pillow to the shiny new hardwood.
All it takes is a few seconds of contemplation and channeling his motivation on the days when he feels tired. And he only spends a minute or two in the car, because as he will tell you with a smile, there is no one else on the road at that time.
Shannon makes this morning trip every day. Since arriving in Illinois in May, he’s made it a routine to be the guy who turns on the lights and blisters the nets while most of the others are still in bed.
Only now he’s setting his alarm earlier and raising the bar. As Brad Underwood shared with reporters at Illinois Basketball Media Day on Friday, Shannon is on a mission to make 1,000 shots a day this month.
He joins the sleepy-eyed managers on the field, he sets another alarm for 6:10 a.m., and he lets his job do the chase during dream time. Managers count up to 100 marks from seven different spots around the three-point arc and Shannon finishes with midrange shots and maybe even a few free throws.
It’s no wonder Shannon is having his best season as a three-point shooter (38.4%), while also ranking in the 95th percentile in the NCAA as a catch-and-shoot weapon. Shannon strives for high-level efficiency in her lab sessions. He doesn’t know the exact number of attempts it takes to hit 1,000 marks, but the ball passes “well over 70%” of the time.
Once that work is done, Shannon hits the weights with her teammates at 6:30 a.m. and then practice begins at seven. When the team hits the ground, there’s no doubt who the alpha dog is. He’s the guy who already sweats when others walk through the door. The one that sets the bar for what’s expected and the voice you hear if you don’t deliver.
“I just took the initiative when I got here to show the guys how hard I work and take that lead. When I did that, the guys just followed suit,” Shannon said. When you come to a place or when you are at a place you can tell who is the leader by the way he behaves…I encourage but also tell the truth to the guys and allow them to tell me the truth.”
The Illini feel like they hit the jackpot with Shannon. Not only did they get the physical ability of an explosive 6-foot-6 rim-rocker with an ever-improving jumper, but they got a driven leader with a rare work ethic – so much so that it’s in the game. seem rare to be compared to Ayo Dosunmuis in the program.
This is not a comparison that is thrown around lightly.
In this new chapter of Underwood’s tenure, he needed a new tone in the dressing room. Someone who knows what it takes, can handle pressure, and can bring guys along. It’s a conversation Underwood and Shannon had when they recruited him this spring.
“We had a conversation. He said they needed me to come here and lead and be the guy,” Shannon said. “I like having the weight on my shoulders or being the person everyone goes to, because I like helping other people…Coach Brad trusts me and I trust him. When I direct and empower the guys in training, he listens and he likes it.
Where did Shannon learn those leadership qualities of demanding more of yourself and pushing others out of their comfort zone? He smiles as the answer easily comes to mind.
“My mother,” he said. ” She is everything. She’s a leader. She holds herself responsible. She would do anything to get the job done and that’s where I got that from.
Shannon recalls the tough love her mother, Treannette Redding, showed her early in her basketball career. To this day, he says she is still his second biggest critic – only behind him. But it kept him hungry and he knows the work she did to give him that opportunity.
“My mom, she always made sure I was okay. Even if she couldn’t have something, she made sure me and my siblings had it,” Shannon said. just a hard worker she still is and i just want to give her the world and i work hard for.
Shannon thinks of her mother when the inner urge to press “snooze” arises from time to time. He thinks about the people in his life who look up to him. And he remembers the message he received from Damian Lillard’s “Formula Zero” camp he attended in August.
“It just showed me how hard he’s worked to get to where he is now. Guys who spoke to us like Trent Shelton and Phil Beckner, just saying, ‘It’s not easy. How are you? you break up and be the one and be that guy?” Shannon said. “I’m just trying to break up and I feel like no one else is shooting at 4:45 in the morning just to get some extra time. It’s just a little thing where I feel like I’m ahead of somebody.”
While they certainly appreciate the dedication, Underwood & Co. wanted Shannon to take just one day to sleep. They tried to convince him this summer, but in vain. Shannon told them he would take their advice if his game started to slip in practice. He laughs knowing it hasn’t happened yet.
For Shannon, the stakes are too high to think about slowing down. He’s no longer the same player he was in high school, when he – by his own admission – got by just because of his talent.
Ilini Assistant Tim Anderson had Shannon committed to DePaul (before Shannon eventually landed at Texas Tech) back when he was a late Chicago prospect. And he knew him and his family many years before. Anderson has been given a unique perspective seeing his growth over the years.
“He’s a guy I’ve always kept in touch with. We had a real relationship besides basketball,” Anderson said. “I love him. He understands what it takes. He came here to represent his home country. He wanted to put on this jersey. He wants to be part of a winning program and a culture and he wants the kids to be able to say, “Yeah, I’m staying home and going to Illinois.” And he wants to be a pro. He behaves like this every day. It’s a coach’s dream. We like it. You ask anyone on this staff, they love it. To be around him, his attitude is contagious. He speaks rather softly off the pitch, but he is a tenacious and relentless competitor in competition.
Anderson’s relationship with Shannon played a big part in bringing him back to his home country. After reaching the portal in March, Shannon said they called each other daily. He was also very familiar with the Illinois program as a whole, given how hard the Illini recruited him in the 2019 class.
Shannon remembers coming on her official visit and being hosted by Dosunmu, then a freshman. Now Shannon hopes to follow in his footsteps as a Windy City product leaving an imprint on Illinois basketball before heading to the NBA.
These two had the opportunity to connect when Dosunmu returned to town last month.
“He recently came here and I watched him train. I’ve seen how much he’s improved since he was a freshman at Illinois. And I always watched those guys play,” Shannon said. “I’m just proud of him and happy for him. He starts for the Bulls now. When he came here to practice, he just talked to me afterwards, gave me advice on how I can thrive with coach Brad’s offense and how I can lead them and take away.
The following expect nothing less.