Andrew Jones is back shooting and has been encouraged to play some pickup basketball as he continues his heroic climb back to the court after a battle with leukemia sidelined him for all but 10 games of his sophomore season at Texas.
Longhorns coach Shaka Smart gave an update on Jones’ condition during an interview on the latest NCAA.com March Madness 365 podcast.
Smart said doctors encouraged Jones to get back to basketball as soon as he could receive outpatient cancer treatments.
“But it’s a long way back to play at the level he played at before he was diagnosed with leukemia,’’ Smart said. “But I wouldn’t put anything past him.’’
Smart said there is zero pressure on Jones to return to the court.
“He’s chomping at the bit to play and obviously there are still some steps to get through in order to get him to the level of play (he had in the past),’’ Smart said. “Andrew has high expectations for himself and he won’t come back until he can play at the level he expects.’’
The 6-4 Jones averaged a team-high 13.5 points per game for Texas in those 10 games after posting 11.4 points per game as a freshman.
His season was abruptly cut short when he became ill and was immediately admitted to the hospital where he was diagnosed with leukemia. Jones last played on Jan. 1 in a four-point win over Iowa State when he scored eight points in 11 minutes off the bench for the Longhorns.
Smart discussed how much progress Jones has made since the first time he was admitted to the hospital. He received his cancer treatments at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Jones has been active on social media, posting pictures and videos of himself during his recovery, including video of him shooting while he was in the hospital.
“From the beginning, his attitude was phenomenal,’’ Smart said. “He attacked this thing head on….he really took a great approach and a very workmanlike attitude to his treatment and recovery. He’s come so far.’’
Smart said Jones has been on campus during treatment breaks to hang with his teammates. He is currently taking an online class.
Andrew Jones, diagnosed with leukemia last year, was back on campus today after being approved to enroll in web-based coursework. #AJ1— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) June 7, 2018
Keep up the fight, @Drewdotcash
( via @HookEmSmart) pic.twitter.com/PDs7ZmS3iT
Smart said one of the hardest things to witness was how fast Jones dropped weight after being diagnosed.
“The physical changes that occurred were hard to see him go through,’’ he said. “Everyone had a helpless feeling.’’
But basketball has been a driving force of good for Jones, giving him benchmarks to achieve during his recovery. Using playing as a long-term goal has fueled Jones' positive attitude and “he knows there is a light at the end of the tunnel," according to Smart.
Smart also went into detail on the podcast about how the Longhorns will play next season, their non-conference schedule, Kansas’ chances to win the Big 12 again and the draft prospects of center Mo Bamba.