College basketball’s most intriguing matchup on opening night may be the nightcap of the Champions Classic between Duke and Kentucky. Or maybe it was the game that preceded it in Kansas-Michigan State. But hands down the best moment took place more than 1,000 miles south in Austin, Texas, when Longhorns guard Andrew Jones checked in for the first time after a monthslong battle with leukemia.
Jones was met with a standing ovation from the Texas crowd upon entering the game, and the roar became deafening after he knocked down a free throw shortly thereafter.
Jones played in only 10 games last season for Texas before a leukemia diagnosis left him no choice but to leave the team to battle the disease. What followed was more than a six month long battle before returning to practice with the team in late September.
“It’s been great having him back,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said at the time. “It’s terrific seeing him back on the court and doing what he loves. He’s participated in our workouts some. There’s sometimes where he gets pulled out. The team doctor and the trainers want to make sure we’re building back his strength before he gets thrown out there full time.”
Jones led the Longhorns last season in scoring before his diagnosis forced him away from the game. In his two seasons with Texas, he’s averaged 11.9 points, 3.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game.
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