Andrew Jones got a standing ovation when he hit a free throw in the second half of Texas’ opener Tuesday night, his first point as a Longhorn since being diagnosed with leukemia in January.
Jones wasn’t even sure whether he would play this season, but the junior guard checked in with 11 minutes, 40 seconds left in the second half and brought the crowd to its feet. And even though he’s also recovering from a broken toe, Jones was physical from the get-go, scrapping for a loose ball, then drawing a foul in Texas’ 71-59 season-opening win over Eastern Illinois.
“It’s great to see Andrew out on the court,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “I loved the way the crowd and everyone in the building reacted to him going in the game.”
Jones, who wasn’t made available to the media after the game, had one point, one rebound and one assist in nine minutes of action.
Ten months ago, Jones was leading the Longhorns in scoring at 13.5 points per game when he began to complain about extreme fatigue. Soon after a road game against Iowa State on Jan. 1, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Jones didn’t play another game for Texas during the 2017-18 season.
Instead, he moved to University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to begin treatment. He was released from the hospital in late February and completed outpatient treatment in August.
He joined the team in September, but then fractured a toe in his right foot in practice last month.
Jones is set for another round of leukemia treatments in December.
“Only the strong survive, and that’s been something that I’ve lived by these last couple months,” Jones told reporters last week. “It’s a choice whether if you want to just continue to go on and fight through adversity, or you can just sit there and let it take over you. Most people don’t have the mental strength or even just the drive to want to do it, but anything is possible. Through the grace of God, anything is possible.”
Jones averaged 11.4 points per game as a freshman and declared for the NBA draft following his first season with the Longhorns but later withdrew his name and returned to school. He was a McDonald’s All-American as a recruit out of Irving, Texas.
“He treated it humbly. He wants to be treated like one of us.” Texas guard Matt Coleman said of Jones’ return.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.