Shaka Smart sounded like a worried father the last week over Andrew Jones. The Texas sophomore simply wasn’t feeling normal, and the UT training staff had no diagnosis.
“There’s something else,” the Texas men’s basketball coach said last week. “Some type of sickness.”
On Wednesday, the school made a heartbreaking announcement. Jones has been diagnosed with leukemia.
A statement from Jones’ family said Andrew had been undergoing “a number of tests and evaluations over the past week.
“He has begun treatments, and we hope everyone will keep him in your thoughts and prayers,” the family statement said. “This is obviously a difficult situation for our family, and we hope everyone will respect our privacy at this time.”
Smart has spent extensive time with Jones and the family in recent days.
“Speaking for our entire team and staff, we love Andrew and will do everything we can to support his family and help him get back to health,” Smart said in a statement. “I want to thank everyone for being respectful of the privacy that the Jones family needs at this time.”
On New Year’s Day, the 20-year-old tweeted, “Stay focus and let God’s plan for me take its course.”
Word of Jones’ condition began circulating over the weekend, but it was kept under wraps by the school due to federal privacy laws. Typically, coaches talk openly about sprained wrists or twisted ankles.
The 6-foot-4 guard from Irving MacArthur missed four games due to a hairline fracture in his right wrist after falling twice against Virginia Commonwealth on Dec. 5. Prior to the injury, Jones was on a roll. He scored a career-high 19 points that night in Richmond, Va., and was averaging 16.6 points in the last five games.
Jones sat out against Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Tennessee State and Alabama. He returned against Kansas on Dec. 29 and logged nine minutes. Smart said Jones looked winded, that he simply needed to get back in game shape.
A team spokesman said Jones felt under the weather prior to a game at Iowa State on Jan. 1, but he still played. Jones logged 11 minutes and scored eight points. Afterward, Smart said Jones’ wrist was no longer bothering him, but something else was robbing his leading scorer of energy.
Jones did not travel with the team to Waco for last Saturday’s game against Baylor. Smart gave no update on Jones’ status and citied the family’s request for privacy — a signal something was wrong.
Jones is a fighter. In April 2007, a 7-year-old Jones was in a car that slipped off an icy road and flipped multiple times. His father, David, was pinned underneath, suffered two fractured vertebrae and is now paralyzed from the chest down.
Andrew Jones was ejected from the car but suffered only a bruised hip.
“I’m so used to him being a strong man, always working, trying to provide for us. I couldn’t handle it,” Jones told the American-Statesman in May 2016. Andrew and his sister Alexis both learned how to cook and take care of their bed-ridden father.
“He took care of me and did a lot of things for me that most kids his age probably wouldn’t have to do,” David Jones told the Statesman in 2016.
Alexis Jones eventually became a star player for the Baylor women’s team and now plays in the WNBA.
Andrew has every intention of becoming a professional himself. He averaged 11.9 points as a freshman at UT last season and shot 33 percent from 3-point range. Still, Jones went to Chicago last May for the annual NBA scouting combine, if for nothing else to get feedback on how to improve.
In various shooting drills, Jones hit 80 percent of his shots from the left corner and 60 percent from the top of the key. “If I hear enough feedback that staying in the draft will benefit and help me crack the first round and not slide down to the second round, then I’ll stay,” Jones said at the time.
Jones returned to Texas for his sophomore season and started like gangbusters. He was to be Smart’s sharpshooter. He shot a team-high 46.3 percent from 3-point range in 10 games this season.
It’s unclear whether Jones will attend any more home games this season to support his Longhorns. Texas had a 10-5 record heading into Wednesday’s game against No. 16 TCU. Freshman Jase Febres has moved into Jones’ starting spot. He had a season-high 18 points against Baylor.
Jones is fighting a far tougher opponent now, although one that is beatable under the right conditions.
“We know Andrew’s a fighter with a strong family and our thoughts, prayers and support are fully behind them,” UT athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a statement. “At the University of Texas, we will do everything in our power to provide all of the resources we can to assist Andrew and his family.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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