AUSTIN (KXAN) – Hours before the meet up with Texas Christian, University of Texas Men’s Basketball Coach Shaka Smart reminded his team of their purpose. Doctors had just confirmed the leukemia diagnosis of sophomore player, Andrew Jones.
“As a team, we had a very, very important ‘why,'” Smart said. “We’re always talking about ‘why do you play’ and ‘why do you do the things you do?’ And, our why was very, very important tonight.”
The Longhorns battled for a one-point victory over the TCU Horned Frogs in double-overtime Wednesday night. The final score was 99-98. It was Texas’s biggest win of the season — coming at a time of trial for one of its own.
“We said it in the huddle every time up that we’re going to win this game,” Point Guard Matt Coleman said. “No matter what. We’re going to find a way.”
Jones was UT’s leading scorer and he considered entering the NBA draft after his freshman year. But, last month Coach Shaka Smart noticed that he was not quite himself on the court. He was fatigued and was slightly slower to the rim.
Persistent fatigue or weakness can be a symptom of blood cancers. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society says every three minutes someone in the US is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Many times it can be overlooked because early symptoms may resemble the flu or other illness. Some other signs and symptoms can include weight loss without effort; and swollen lymph nodes.
Then came the tests last month and a diagnosis this week. Jones’s treatment is underway. His teammates wore temporary patches with “AJ1” on their uniforms in support.
“This isn’t about us. This is about him,” said Guard Eric Davis, Jr. “And like Matt [Coleman] said. [We were] playing with Joy. He was just with us. He’s fighting a different basketball.”
Smart says the team made a dogged decision to win no matter what and honor their teammate with their effort.
“There was a lot of emotion there. We had a game to play against TCU and our guys did a good job channeling their feelings,” Smart said.