Andrew Jones, the star guard for the University of Texas basketball team, made his first public appearance with the team on Wednesday night at the annual Texas Tip-Off event since returning from his battle with leukemia. Entering the arena through smoke, flashing lights, and blaring music, Jones brought the entire event to a pause as the Texas faithful gave him a rousing standing ovation.
Jones burst onto the college basketball scene during the 2016-17 season, starting 23 games for the Longhorns as a freshman while scoring 11.4 points and 3.5 assists per game while leading the team into the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Last season, following Texas’ preseason exhibition tour of Australia, Jones began to feel run down and tired. First, he blamed it on jet lag.
Jones’ sophomore season started off with high hopes, as he led the Longhorns in scoring through the first ten games, despite feeling progressively worse. Then he began to feel sick and thought he had the flu. Then he got the news that would change his life.
“I started feeling kind of sick after we got back from Australia. We started getting to the season, and I started to feel run down. I started to feel heavy,” Jones was quoted by 24/7 Sports. “At first, they thought I had a viral infection. They thought I had the flu. (I thought) I’m going to get some Theraflu and I’ll be good in a week, but I didn’t get better. I went and got blood work done, and she told me it was leukemia.”
Jones would miss the second half of the season as he began treatment in Houston for his illness. Jones was devastated, and the former McDonald’s All-American wondered if his dreams of a professional basketball career were over.
“It’s kind of depressing because I was almost at the peak of my game,” said Jones. “I was playing at a high level to make myself a potential draft pick.”
Jones kept fighting. The leukemia treatments drained him of his size, strength, and athleticism. Jones used social media to keep the public informed of his progress, and received a groundswell of support from fans, the NCAA, and the NBA.
In late July, Jones posted to his Twitter account that he was progressing in his recovery.
Jones rejoined the Texas team in September but has been a limited practice participant as he continues to recover from his illness and treatment.
On Wednesday, the Texas faithful welcomed him back with open arms.
A visibly moved Jones, true to form, modestly walked off the stage. His hard-fought return to the limelight is not far away.