NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament East Regional-Connecticut vs Illinois

Illinois star guard Terrence Shannon Jr. was found not guilty Thursday after being charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual battery. A jury in Douglas County, Kansas, deliberated 90 minutes before delivering the unanimous verdict in the case.

Shannon was charged with rape or an alternative count of sexual battery, a felony, on Dec. 5 after an incident at a bar on Sept. 8, 2023 while in Lawrence, Kansas, for the Kansas vs. Illinois football game. Shannon subsequently missed six games while suspended by the university before successfully suing the school to return to play while criminal proceedings played out. 

Illinois suspended Shannon citing a zero-tolerance sexual conduct policy, after which he missed one month of action and six total games before his attorneys filed a restraining order against the University of Illinois seeking immediate reinstatement while claiming due process was not granted. 

He turned himself in to authorities on Dec. 28 and was released on $50,000 bail.

Shortly after submitting to law enforcement and his release, Shannon on Jan. 2 penned a 1,366-word letter addressing the University of Illinois student-athlete conduct panel wherein he declared his innocence and asked for the suspension to be overturned. He missed more than two more weeks before returning to the floor on Jan. 21.

"As to the criminal charges against me, I am declaring my innocence, as I did back in September," the letter read in part. "I have totally cooperated with that process and will continue to do so. While I appreciate my lawyers and their ability to fight the case in court, I know that the criminal justice system takes time. So my day in court will not come about for a long time, most likely long after the NBA Draft, and I may not be cleared of the charges until it's too late. The harm that I will suffer from an immediate suspension can never be undone, and I will never have this opportunity to further my collegiate career or fulfill my lifelong dream to play in the NBA. Going forward, I want nothing more than to play basketball for the University of Illinois, and I remain hopeful that my due process rights will be honored and allow for a full reinstatement while this case is pending."

Shannon had a career year for the Illini in 2023-24 where he finished second among Big Ten players in points per game (23.0) as a fifth-year senior. He ranks No. 29 on the latest CBS Sports NBA Draft Prospect Rankings and could be a late first-round pick in the draft, which is scheduled to start June 26.