University of Texas guard Andrew Jones hadn’t sat out a game for as long as he can remember. Jones had a promising freshman season, finishing tied for the team lead in assists, second in steals, and produced double-digit scoring performances in 22 of his 33 appearances, coming on especially strong in the second half of the season.
Entering his sophomore season, he was set to be a key cog in Shaka Smart’s Texas team, but just weeks into his second year in Austin, everything changed. After a game against Iowa State, Jones began to feel different.
“I can just remember being tired at a few practices, not being able to compete like I used to,” Jones told Dime. “It was like I wasn’t my normal self.”
He felt sick and the coaching staff took notice, encouraging Jones to get checked out and expecting him to learn he had the flu or some other ailment. After having tests run to determine what was wrong, doctors determined he had leukemia. A cancer of the bodies blood-forming tissues, leukemia is a form of cancer that has a five-year survival rate of 57 percent.
After the initial appointment and diagnosis, Jones had plenty of questions. Where the cancer came from? Why it happened? Would he live or die? Would he play basketball again? The answers were less than concrete and a treatment plan of two years was put in place. His basketball career was to be put on hold for at least that long.
“I was shocked,” Jones says. “I was just feeling like I was getting to the top of my game and on a great team. Then it felt like I had to start over. It was all taken away.”
Jones changed hospitals and was, at times, so drained that he felt couldn’t move, get out of bed or walk around. Treatments including x-rays, chemotherapy bag changes and blood work would typically last all day. In those times, basketball and family were the two things that kept him going.