Growth is the name of the game when it comes to Texas guard Andrew Jones. On Nov. 5 Jones played significant minutes for the first time since being diagnosed with leukemia early in 2018. His career-high 20 points made jaws drop across the college basketball universe.
Jones' cancer is now in full remission and he continues to play quality minutes for the Longhorns. His 20-point game against Northern Colorado has been his best performance of the season so far, but he isn't letting his best game of the year be any signal for complacency.
"They're just happy to see me back on the court," Jones said of his family post-cancer treatment on the latest episode of the March Madness 365 podcast. "I'm such a perfectionist and I want to make everybody proud. I want to be that story, like something that's never been done before."
Jones already is that story, host of the pod Andy Katz pointed out. After Jones dropped 20 points in Texas' season-opener, his statistics did take a step back. He now has an average of 10.8 points per game — something Jones is motivated to improve upon.
"I just can't be complacent because if I just accept this then I won't grow, there's no room for growth," Jones said.
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According to Jones, his disease is now in full remission and he has no more treatments scheduled, just checkups. The Texas guard began playing for the Longhorns in 2016 where he averaged 11.4 points per game. The following two seasons he only played in a combined 12 games.
The Irving, Texas native is now a redshirt sophomore and is relieved that the cancer treatments are behind him. Jones added that he is excited to get his body back to where it was before his treatment.
"It's great now that I know that I don't have to, in the next month or two, sit down and take a major step back with my body," Jones said of his athletic progress. "Now it's just uphill from here. So, I can just get my body right the way I want to, continue to gain strength and athleticism. I feel myself getting faster and stronger each time I get out there on the court."
There were points in his treatment where Jones couldn't walk on his own, put his shoes on or brush his own teeth. Once he was able to gain enough strength to do things on his own, he remembers how it felt to be so behind where he was in a physical sense.
"I could barely run. I didn't have enough balance to even go fast," Jones said of his experience when he first started conditioning again.
He isn't on his own as far as rebuilding his strength goes though. His desire to avoid complacency is fueled by his strength and conditioning coach who gave him the option to either be treated as a cancer patient or as one of the team. Jones, of course, picked the latter.
Despite all the setbacks, the Texas guard is a perfectionist above all else. The process of battling back from a cancer diagnosis and hopping into Division I collegiate athletics is impressive by itself, but that isn't end-all-be-all for Andrew Jones.
"I'm a perfectionist at heart, diagnoses or not, I still hold myself to a pedestal where I can compete and I want to be the best I can be. Sometimes I have to take into perspective that I lost everything," Jones told Katz. "I just have to try to take it slow, try not to get too much into my head and just enjoy the process."
Texas is off to an impressive 5-1 start this season with wins over Purdue and California and their only loss coming to Georgetown on Nov. 21. The Longhorns will be in action next when they host McNeese State on Nov. 30.
Jones' interview with Katz begins at about the 7:15 mark and covers all of these topics and more. This week's edition of the March Madness 365 podcast also features interviews with Duke point guard Tre Jones and ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.