Andrew Jones didn't just return to basketball competition Tuesday after a long absence. He took a star turn.
Jones, absent for nearly two years while receiving treatment for leukemia, rejoined the Texas rotation and scored a career-best 20 points in 29 minutes. The Longhorns defeated Northern Colorado 69-45 in the opener for both teams.
"I didn't know what to expect," Jones, a redshirt sophomore guard, said. "It was a great feeling to be back out there. I didn't have any jitters. I wasn't nervous."
CBSSports.com reports Jones was among college basketball's biggest under-the-radar breakout contenders before his leukemia diagnosis.
Jones scored his previous career-best 19 in a win at VCU on Dec. 5, 2017 and was leading the team with 15.3 points per game while hitting 43.2 percent on 3-pointers before missing four games with a wrist injury. He was diagnosed with leukemia a month later and missed the rest of the season. Jones was still undergoing treatment last season when he made brief appearances in two games.
This was much different. Jones entered the game at the 13:50 mark of the first half, and he did not appear hesitant. One time he stepped in front of a Northern Colorado player to induce a charging foul, falling to the court in the process. Then Jones drove through traffic in the lane for a basket.
"Andrew's a great player," said Texas guard Courtney Ramey, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds. "Him being out for so long, people kind of forgot about him. So he's gonna wake them up."
Those first-half moves were only an appetizer. In the second half Jones converted seven of 10 shots, including four of five 3-pointers.
"I'm happy for Andrew," coach Shaka Smart said. "I'm happy for his family. Sometimes in life, when you are dealt a tough hand, it's really about how you respond. He was the best offensive player on the floor. He played with great energy. He played with an aggressive, confident and loose mindset."