Three years ago — to the day — basketball players representing the University of Texas were informed their teammate, sophomore guard Andrew Jones, had been diagnosed with leukemia.
Saturday, Jones marked the anniversary by making the game-winning 3-pointer for the Longhorns in a comeback road win against No. 14 West Virginia, extending their unbeaten start in Big 12 Conference play.
The Longhorns were down by two in the final half-minute and surrendered two offensive rebounds as West Virginia maneuvered for a shot that might provide the clinching points. But after the second of those, Mountaineers forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. chose to go up for a put-back rather than passing out of the post for a chance at killing the remaining 10 seconds. He was fouled and missed both free throws.
When freshman Greg Brown rebounded for the Horns, he got the ball to guard Courtney Ramey, who raced the ball up the left side of the court. Jones found some open space in the right corner. When four WVU defenders collapsed to stop Ramey’s drive, Ramey slipped a beauty of a pass to Jones, who comfortably nailed a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left.
The Longhorns rushed to congratulate Jones for that shot, and it looked like more than celebrating a game-winner.
“I’m emotional even seeing him go out on the floor and play,” coach Shaka Smart told reporters following the game. “The place where we were three years ago, and the way just that everyone in our program felt — it’s such a helpless feeling. When we would get a chance to see him in the hospital, it’s a pit in your stomach.
“I don’t know a lot of guys that would be able to do what he did, from the standpoint of scrapping and clawing his way back.”
Oh, there’s more. After missing 25 games that season while receiving treatment for the disease, missing 35 games in 2018-19 to continue treatment and returning to the Longhorns last season to help them to a 19-12 record and third-place Big 12 finish, Jones passed the 1,000-point mark in career scoring in Saturday’s 72-70 victory. He finished with 16 points and 4-of-7 3-point shooting.
Jones played just two college games from January 2017 until November 2019, and still was able to contribute 11.5 points per game last season. He has improved that to 13.1 points this year, although his 3-point shooting accuracy has been off a bit. Until Saturday, anyway.
“All glory to God for even allowing me to be here and play the game that I love,” Jones tweeted. “Thank you too my teammates and all my supporters. Let’s keep it going.”
Texas superfan Matthew McConaughey called Jones “sportsman of the year” for his heroics.
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 get back healthy.’ I think that helped him from a motivational standpoint. I don’t think anyone’s surprised he made that shot.”
He’s done bigger things, you know.
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