Beard talks building culture, having fun, Andrew Jones’ resilience

Nicholas Pannes

Flanked by the legacy and the future of the team he inherited, head basketball coach Chris Beard gave a treasure trove of insight on his program’s culture and mentality when he met with reporters Wednesday.

On his right sat Devin Askew, a 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound sophomore guard who transferred to UT this year from the University of Kentucky. Beard always finds some point of praise for each player on his all-star roster when meeting with the media, but with Askew he went far beyond his usual remarks, taking particular pride in the guard’s defensive chops.

“I don’t want to put all the weight on his shoulders, but I have no problem telling you if he stays the course he’ll have no problems being one of the all-time greats,” Beard said. 

On the court, Askew has a strong defensive identity with solid on-ball skills, Beard said, also touting his competitiveness and ability to guard multiple positions due to his size and strength.

Off the court, Beard described Askew as a fun-loving kid who brightens a room just by stepping into it. He said Askew’s genuine enjoyment of life and its experiences meshes well with his competitive spirit to make him an ideal teammate and resonates with a core tenet of Beard’s coaching culture.

“One part of our process is what we call balance,” Beard said. “We want to have more fun than any other team in college basketball. We don’t apologize for that, we don’t shy away from it, … so when people tell me they enjoyed their time here, I take that as a huge compliment. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

To the left of Beard sat Andrew Jones, a 6-foot-4-inch sharpshooting guard with a clutch touch who now enters his sixth season as a Longhorn. 

Jones missed the majority of the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons when he was battling leukemia, and yet he returned the year after to average 26.6 minutes and 11.5 points per game. In the 2020-2021 campaign he posted his best season yet, hitting an iconic game-winner against No. 14 West Virginia on the third anniversary of his cancer diagnosis.

“The story I think is real with the adversity he’s fought, but the other story is just how he’s improved as a player,” Beard said. “He looks better. He’s playing better. I’m predicting he’s going to have the best season he’s ever had.”

Jones’ resilience and dedication to the game of basketball have consequently made him the face of the Longhorns’ work ethic. Beard expressed admiration for Jones’ journey and saw great potential for him in the upcoming season.

“Just the fight to still be alive is awesome,” Beard said. “Not only is he playing again, he’s one of the best players in college basketball.”