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Illinois officials say they were surprised by rape charge against star Terrence Shannon Jr.

Illinois director of athletics Josh Whitman talks to reporters about the suspension of Terrence Shannon Jr. from the men's team during a news conference before the team's NCAA college basketball game against Fairleigh Dickinson in Champaign, Ill., Friday, Dec. 29, 2023.

CHAMPAIGN — Officials at Illinois said they were surprised to learn that star basketball player Terrence Shannon Jr. had been charged with rape in Kansas.

Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said Friday that he didn’t see the charging documents and warrant for Shannon’s arrest, issued Dec. 5, until Wednesday on social media, hours after being informed about the charge.

Illinois suspended Shannon on Thursday after he was charged with rape for an alleged incident that happened when the football team played at Kansas in September.

Whitman spoke at a news conference Friday before Illinois’ game against Fairleigh Dickinson.

Whitman said communication sent in late September by the Lawrence Police Department to the university police indicated that Shannon was involved in an incident in a bar in Lawrence, Kansas, on Sept. 9 that alleged the inappropriate touching of a woman.

University officials met with Shannon after learning about the alleged bar incident. Whitman said Shannon was “forthcoming” about his activities in Lawrence.

Whitman said the alleged bar incident was “short on specifics,” so no action was taken by the athletic department against Shannon.

“We take sexual misconduct incredibly seriously. It’s antithetical to our mission as a university and athletic department,” Whitman said. “But we also know there’s a presumption of innocence in legal proceedings.”

Shannon, a 6-foot-6 guard from Chicago, was in Lawrence to watch the Illinois football team play Kansas on Sept. 8.

In a statement released Thursday, the university made it clear that Shannon was not in Lawrence on official university business, nor was he a member of the university’s travel party.

Shannon returned to Lawrence on Thursday afternoon with Illinois athletics staff members to meet with authorities and post bail, Whitman said. Shannon returned to Champaign on Thursday night.

Mark Sutter, Shannon’s Chicago-area attorney, issued a statement Thursday saying Shannon was not guilty.

“Since September, when these allegations surfaced, Terrence has cooperated with law enforcement … declaring his innocence from the beginning,” Sutter said.

“Now, several months later, my office learned that formal charges were filed against him yesterday in Lawrence. In less than 24 hours, my client responded, and he voluntarily surrendered to local authorities.

“Terrence is innocent of these charges, and he intends to take his case to trial.”

Led by Shannon, Illinois has been climbing steadily through the ranks in The Associated Press Top 25 poll. The Illini were ranked a season-best 11th this week.

Shannon is averaging 21.7 points per game, eighth in the nation and second only to reigning AP National Player of the Year Zach Edey of Purdue in the Big Ten Conference. He’s also shooting a career-best 40.8% on 3-pointers.

This is Shannon’s fifth and final season of college basketball. He played at Texas Tech for three years before coming to Illinois.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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