It was an emotional opening night for the University of Texas Longhorns’ Andrew Jones on Tuesday. The star guard played in a college basketball game for the first time since being diagnosed with leukemia in January ― and the home fans in Austin, Texas, responded accordingly.
They got to their feet when Jones entered the game against Eastern Illinois University with 11:40 left on the clock, ESPN reported.
“First of all, when he checked in, I guess it just hit me and probably hit a lot of people in the building that this guy was laying in the hospital bed a matter of months ago,” coach Shaka Smart told the Austin American-Statesman. “Now, he’s out there in a Texas uniform.”
Fans cheered again when Jones fought for a loose ball and got fouled to reach the free throw line for his first point.
Jones finished with one point for the night, plus a rebound and an assist in 9 minutes during a 71-59 Longhorns victory ― but his stat line hardly mattered.
He was averaging more than 13 points per game last January when he complained of fatigue. He was soon diagnosed with leukemia and left the team for a cancer center in Houston for treatment.
He returned to the team in September, but a fractured toe set him back. Now Jones is scheduled to resume leukemia treatments in December, he said at a press conference Oct. 31.
He was not made available to reporters after the game but told reporters last week: “I didn’t want to feel like a victim. ... God gives his toughest battles to his toughest soldiers.”