Three years ago – to the day – basketball players representing the University of Texas were told their teammate, sophomore goalie Andrew Jones, had been diagnosed with leukemia.
On Saturday, Jones marked the anniversary by making the winning trio of the Longhorns in a return to the road against the No.14 West Virginia, extending their undefeated start in the Big 12 Conference game.
3 years ago today, Texas coach Shaka Smart informed his players about Andrew Jones’ cancer diagnosis.
Jones completed his treatment last year.
Today he hit a winning basket to defeat West Virginia No.14.pic.twitter.com/eHWmnmwgJG
– Sports news (@sportingnews) January 9, 2021
The Longhorns dropped two points in the final half minute and gave up two offensive rebounds as West Virginia maneuvered for a shot that could provide the clinch points. But after the second of those, Mountaineers forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. opted to step back rather than leave the post for a chance to kill the remaining 10 seconds. He was fouled and missed both free throws.
When rookie Greg Brown rebounded for the Horns, he got the ball to keep Courtney Ramey, who ran the ball down the left side of the field. Jones found a free space in the right corner. When four WVU defenders collapsed to stop Ramey’s drive, Ramey slipped a nice pass to Jones, who comfortably nailed a 3-point pointer with 1.1 seconds remaining.
The Longhorns rushed over to congratulate Jones on that shot, and it felt like more than celebrating a winner.
“I was even moved to see him come out onto the pitch and play,” coach Shaka Smart told reporters after the game. “The place we were three years ago, and the way everyone in our program felt – it’s such a helpless feeling. When we have the chance to see him in the hospital, it’s a pit in his stomach.
“I don’t know a lot of guys who would be able to do what he did, scrapping and rolling back.
Oh, there is more. After missing 25 games that season while being treated for the disease, missing 35 games in 2018-19 to continue treatment and returning to the Longhorns last season to help them reach a 19-12 record. and a third place finish in the Big 12, Jones passed the career 1,000 point mark in Saturday’s 72-70 win. He finished with 16 points and a 3-point shot of 4 of 7.
Jones only played two college games from January 2017 to November 2019 and was still able to contribute 11.5 points per game last season. He’s improved that to 13.1 points this year, although his 3-point shooting accuracy has dropped a bit. Until Saturday, anyway.
“All praise be to God for even allowing me to be here and play the game that I love”, Jones tweeted. “Thank you also to my teammates and to all my supporters. Let’s go on. “
Texas superfan Matthew McConaughey called out Jones “Sportsman of the year” for his heroism.
Said Smart: “He kept saying, ‘I’m going to come back and play.’ The rest of us were like, “We’ll be happy if you can just come back healthy. I think it helped him from a motivational standpoint. I don’t think anyone is surprised that he pulled it off.
He’s done bigger things, you know.