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Journey to the Tourney: Jones beats cancer, set to play in NCAA Tournament for first time

Three years removed from a battle with cancer, Andrew Jones is set to play in March Madness for the first time.

AUSTIN, Texas — The journey for Andrew Jones to get to this point has been a combination of heartwarming and heart-wrenching.

On Jan. 9, 2018, Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart informed his team that Jones had been diagnosed with leukemia.

Jones, a sophomore at the time, soon began chemotherapy.

“When you saw him in a hospital bed after he was diagnosed and you saw what he was going through and the look on his face, for him to be out here playing, playing so well, playing in the NCAA Tournament, it's awesome,” Smart said.

On Sept. 26 of 2018, Jones began a different kind of therapy.

Less than a year after the diagnosis, he started to practice again with the rest of the team.

“I just remember two years ago when he was working out, he had the bag attached to him while he was practicing,” senior guard Matt Coleman said. “He was doing anything just to be on the court. I can’t put it into words just how inspiring it was.”

Nov. 10, 2019 featured a return to normalcy. In his first time taking the court with leukemia treatments completely behind him, Jones scored a career-high (at the time) 20 points against Northern Colorado.

On Jan. 9, 2021, Jones punctuated the three-year anniversary of his diagnosis with a game-winning shot to beat West Virginia.

Friday, March 19, 2021, marks the eve of his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

“The other day before we played Oklahoma State in the [Big 12] Championship Game, I just kind of found myself next to him coming out of our initial huddle. The starters were walking out onto the court, and I just said, ‘Man, I’m really glad to be here with you,’” Smart said.

“Just to see his growth over time is surreal. It’s surreal,” Coleman added.

Jones and the Longhorns square off with 14-seed Abilene Christian Saturday at 8:50 p.m. CT.

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