The Texas Longhorns return to action in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. The last time the Horns appeared in 2017-18, they did so without the team’s leading scorer Andrew Jones who had been diagnosed with cancer just months before the tourney. Today, the junior guard will lead the Longhorns and make his much-anticipated first appearance in an NCAA Tournament game in his fifth season in Austin.
Texas Longhorns suffer huge blow before NCAA Tournament with Andrew Jones receiving cancer diagnosis
Texas Longhorns guard Andrew Jones impressed his freshman season in 2016-17, averaging 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per contest. However, the Longhorns struggled to an 11-22 record under second-year head coach Shaka Smart.
Jones started well during his sophomore campaign in 2017-18 and was averaging better than 13 points per game when something changed. Jones lost that burst of speed. He was tired and not feeling well.
On January 9, 2018, Smart informed his Texas Longhorns team that Andrew Jones had been diagnosed with leukemia. He began chemotherapy soon after.
Andrew Jones recovers and makes storybook return
Less than 10 months after Smart announced the shocking news to his team, Andrew Jones joined his Texas Longhorns teammates in September of 2018 for limited practice while still undergoing treatment.
“I just remember two years ago when he was working out, he had the bag attached to him while he was practicing,” senior guard Matt Coleman told Austin ABC affiliate KVUE. “He was doing anything just to be on the court. I can’t put it into words just how inspiring it was.”
More than a year later and leukemia treatments in the rearview mirror, Jones made a full return to the Texas Longhorns on November 10, 2019. It was a storybook finish as he scored a new career-high of 20 points in a win over Northern Colorado.
Texas Longhorns return to NCAA Tournament with Jones leading way
Last season Andrew Jones returned to his freshman numbers and averaged 11.5 points while playing in 31 games, 11 of which he started. This season, Jones is again the Texas Longhorns top scorer, averaging 14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. He was named second team All-Big 12.
He is a key reason the team is a No. 3 seed heading into the NCAA Tournament with a 19-7 record, which includes the school’s first-ever Big 12 Tournament Championship.
While statistics and victories are important in sports, Jones brings much more than that to the Longhorns squad each time he steps onto the court.
“The other day before we played Oklahoma State in the [Big 12] Championship Game, I just kind of found myself next to him coming out of our initial huddle. The starters were walking out onto the court, and I just said, ‘Man, I’m really glad to be here with you,'” Smart told his player.
Burnt Orange Nation is ecstatic to see Jones back in a burnt orange jersey leading the Longhorns into his first NCAA Tournament game in five seasons. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what kind of numbers he records in this March Madness or the rest of his basketball career. Andrew Jones has already won one of the toughest battles in life and inspired a lot of people in the process.