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Shannon helps Illinois move on to bigger stage after Big Ten championship

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Shannon helps Illinois move on to bigger stage after Big Ten championship


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Terrence Shannon Jr. took over the Big Ten Tournament, putting Illinois in position for much bigger goals.

After scoring 34 points in the championship game to lead 13th-ranked Illinois past Wisconsin on Sunday, Shannon received the Most Outstanding Player award for the tournament.

With 102 points in three games at Target Center, Shannon finished one short of the record for a single Big Ten Tournament. Keegan Murray had 103 points in four games for Iowa in 2022.

But the fifth-year guard whose performance on the court was so loud, from swishing pull-up 3-pointers off the break to finishing sky-high drives to the rim to sinking his free throws when he was fouled, has been consistently quiet off of it.

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Shannon has not been made available for interviews since he was charged with rape or an alternative count of sexual battery in Kansas in December, stemming from an alleged incident in September. Shannon was suspended from team activities by the school. He returned after six games when a federal judge intervened, ruling that his civil rights were violated by a lack of due process.

The spotlight will increase considerably next week when the Illini, who have the No. 3 seed in the East Region, arrive in Omaha, Nebraska, to prepare for a first-round game against Morehead State in the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m the basketball coach, and a lot of this stuff was put in play by our university, the courts, and I’m not going to consume myself with it,” coach Brad Underwood said after the Big Ten championship game. “It’s a very serious matter. He’s got representation. … It will be handled accordingly and with great sensitivity and respect to everybody.”

Illinois, which is the winningest team in the Big Ten over the last five seasons, won the conference tournament for the second time in four years. With one more win, the Illini will have their most victories since the 2004-05 team went 37-2 and lost in the NCAA championship game. That’s also the last time the program reached the Sweet 16.

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“This team doesn’t know anything about any of that. I’m here to try to win a national championship,” Underwood said, referencing regular conversations he has with athletic director Josh Whitman and chancellor Robert Jones about that lofty goal that Illinois has never accomplished. “If those goals ever change, then I probably don’t need to be your ball coach anymore.”

Underwood has raved often about the chemistry of this team. Marcus Domask, who was an all-Big Ten pick with Shannon, is a graduate transfer from Southern Illinois. Shannon is in his second season with the Illini after coming from Texas Tech. Quincy Guerrier, another fifth-year player, transferred from Oregon for this season. Then there’s the lanky leader Coleman Hawkins, who has spent his entire career with Illinois.

“I’m super proud of all the adversity we’ve gone through, whether it was from Marcus in the summer with his hamstring, me all year with my knee, Quincy’s wrist all year, off-the-court things,” Hawkins said. “We’ve all stuck together, and we’ve done a really good job of just being together.”

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Get poll alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball



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Illinois

Illinois secretary of state celebrates National Donate Life Month

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Illinois secretary of state celebrates National Donate Life Month


SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – April is National Donate Life Month. That is why Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias joined organ recipients and family members of donors to call on everyone to sign up to donate life.

Giannoulias, who oversees Illinois’ organ and tissue donor registry as part of his duties as secretary of state, said 6 million Illinoisans are signed up to be organ donors.

“We must and we can do better,” he said. “We have to raise awareness. This is our chance to literally save lives.”

There are several places people can sign up including online, when they get their Illinois driver’s license and, a recent addition, applying for a hunting license in the state.

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According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, an organ donor can save eight lives and enhance up to 75.

Giannoulias said there are currently nearly 4,000 Illinoisans awaiting an organ transplant. Almost 300 of them die waiting annually.

Nikki Love is one of the lucky ones. In 2015, she got a new kidney and pancreas.

“I’m here today because someone said yes,” she said. “Someone said yes, I will give organs, tissues, whatever is need if anything were to happen to them so I’m just so grateful and thankful that they said yes.”

Giannoulias said people like Love are why he takes overseeing the state’s organ and tissue donor registry so seriously.

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“We spend an enormous amount, our team does, of talking to folks, going to schools, doing everything we can. We’re going to continue to do it, we’re going to aggressively do it and it’s a team effort,” he said.

“We have to opportunity to save lives, to save families, so anything and everything we can do to continue to raise awareness, we will continue to do,” Giannoulias said.



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Illinois State Police squad car struck by driver in Union County

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Illinois State Police squad car struck by driver in Union County


ANNA, Ill. (KFVS) – An Illinois State Police squad car was struck by a driver on Interstate 57 east of Anna, Illinois.

Around 9:06 p.m. on April 23, ISP officials investigated a traffic crash in Union County involving a trooper’s squad car hit by a motorist who failed to move over.

According to ISP, the squad car was parked on the inside shoulder of I-57 northbound near milepost 37.5, just north of Lick Creek Road, with emergency lights activated, handling a motorist assist. The trooper was inside of the squad car when it was struck by a white Infiniti. The trooper was transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the Infiniti was identified as 59-year-old Kimberly Keser of Creal Springs, Illinois. Keser reported no injuries on the scene. She was cited for the Move Over Law – Failure to yield to a stationary emergency vehicle and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

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In 2024, ISP has suffered 14 Move Over Law-related crashes with six troopers injured. In 2023, ISP had 21 Move Over Law-related crashes with seven troopers injured and suffered 25 crashes in 2022, leaving 13 troopers injured.

ISP reminds the public that the Move Over Law, also known as “Scott’s Law,” requires all drivers to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle, or any vehicle with its emergency or hazard lights activated.



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Top general for Illinois National Guard retiring after joining military nearly 40 years ago

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Top general for Illinois National Guard retiring after joining military nearly 40 years ago


A little over five years ago, Maj. Gen. Richard Neely took the Illinois National Guard flag in a chain of command ceremony.

On May 4, Neely, the adjutant general for Illinois and commander of the Illinois National Guard, will be giving the flag back, marking his retirement from the military after nearly 40 years of service.

“It’s the symbology of one leader giving the flag up and one leader taking the flag,” Neely said, referring to his successor, Maj. Gen. Rodney Boyd, the assistant adjutant general. “One…of my priorities was to ensure the continuity of leadership.

“Our organization won’t miss a beat when that flag is passed.”

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The appointment of Boyd by Gov. JB Pritzker, who serves as commander-in-chief of the Illinois National Guard, makes history.

The Chicago native will be the first Black officer and person of color to command the guard, which includes about 13,000 soldiers and airmen and about 2,500 other federal and state employees.

Neely, a 57-year-old native of Easton, about an hour northwest of Springfield, has presided over one of the busiest times in the 301-year history of the Illinois National Guard.

Col. Bradford Leighton, a spokesman for the Illinois National Guard, pointed out that personnel supported 17 different domestic operations in 2020 and 2021. During the previous decade, it supported 13 domestic responses.

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Addressing COVID

The largest domestic operation activation in Illinois National Guard history came in response to the COVID pandemic. That’s when personnel performed 250,000 tests, delivered 8 million masks and administered 2 million vaccines.

“We’re not always the experts,” Neely admitted, “but we can help with large tasks. We can organize. We can prepare large logistics issues. That’s what COVID brought us.”

With testing and later with vaccinations, the Guard became a model for delivery.

More: Petition claims new evidence exonerates 3 suspects in 1996 murder case

“I was happy I was the one in the seat during COVID because it was a significant event,” Neely said. “I thought my experience helped me step through that process. We had a good team, but leadership needs to understand it quickly, make decisions and move out on things.”

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Deploying around the world

For the last two decades, the Illinois National Guard has been more of “an operational reserve (where in the past we were considered a strategic reserve,” Neely said.

That means personnel are deployed all the time.

“At any one time, 8 to 10% of 13,000 soldiers and airmen are deployed around the world doing global operations,” Neely said. “Before 9/11, that wasn’t so much the case.”

During Neely’s tenure, there have been almost 5,000 personnel federally deployed to 21 countries.

There’s a large presence in Eastern Europe, including Poland, “to ensure violence doesn’t extend out of Ukraine,” Neely said.

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More: Champion of students and teachers honored at Springfield area elementary school

The Illinois National Guard has had a relationship with the Polish military for 30-plus years through the State Partnership Program developed with Poland 30 years ago. It came about, Neely said, because of the Chicago area’s large Polish population.

While there are over 100 partnerships in 87 different countries, the Guard and Poland can claim “the gold standard,” Neely said.

Several years ago, Poland started a Territorial Defense Force, a light version of a National Guard, and Poles have been studying in Springfield to see how the Illinois National Guard trains its soldiers and officers.

In 2022, Neely was awarded the Polish Commanders Cross with Silver Star Order of Merit by President Andrjez Duda.

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“The recognition was about the entire organization,” Neely said.

In retirement

Neely said he started his military career “at the very bottom,” joining the Army Reserves the summer before his senior year of high school.

Neely, who later slid over to the Air Force side of the Illinois National Guard, joked that the military is “the family business.” Neely’s identical twin brother served in the military as did Neely’s three kids.

Admittedly, he never envisioned sitting in the adjutant general’s seat.

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“This is me winning the Lotto 10 times over to be able to lead at the end of my career,” Neely said.

A cybersecurity expert, Neely said he envisioned doing some national security work on the side in retirement.

“But it won’t be full time,” he said. “I promised my family I would pull back on the throttle.”

Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788; sspearie@sj-r.com; X, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.





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