After the 2018 college basketball season, the NCAA estimated that just 3.4% of men’s high school basketball players went on to play in college and only 2.8% of eligible Division I women’s college basketball players were drafted into the WNBA.
Based on those odds, the roster is almost certainly unique in featuring two players whose older sisters have both played in the WNBA.
Redshirt sophomore Andrew Jones is the brother of current Los Angeles Sparks guard Alexis Jones, while freshman Donovan Williams’s half-sister is Kelsey Bone, who has played for four WNBA teams in five seasons. Both Longhorns have close relationships with their sisters and recently spoke with High Post Hoops about how their sisters have inspired and motivated them on and off the court.
Growing up, Andrew and Donovan both played one-on-one against their sisters and, at least early on, were each at a disadvantage. Donovan is ten years younger than Kelsey, but he said that didn’t stop them from matching up “any chance we got.” Andrew and Alexis are closer in age, but according to Andrew, Alexis was the natural basketball talent in the family, whereas it took him a while to develop his game. “As I got older and got better,” he explained, “that’s when I started being able to compete with her.” Andrew, a playmaking guard, sees similarities between his game and his sister’s, but Donovan, a rangy wing, calls his game “totally different” from his sister’s powerful low-post game.
When they weren’t going head-to-head, both sets of siblings could frequently be found watching basketball. Andrew mentioned Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson as players he grew up watching, while Donovan said that his father raised Kelsey and him on a steady diet of NBA and WNBA games. “We actually used to go to Houston Comets games when they were still around,” Donovan revealed, “so it was always fun just going and experiencing different basketball with [Kelsey].”
It’s difficult for Andrew and Donovan to watch their sisters’ games as often now as they did when they were younger, but they have seen—and learned from—their sisters’ paths to professional basketball. Andrew said that Alexis has shown him “how to attack and be aggressive every day,” while Donovan pointed to what Kelsey has taught him off the court. “I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that there’s a business side to it all,” Donovan explained. “You have to learn how to carry yourself as a professional.”
According to Donovan, Kelsey’s path to the WNBA is especially inspiring because she faced a lot of doubters growing up. “She wasn’t the best at a young age,” Donovan said, “and people always told her that she should get into a different sport … She proved everybody wrong, so for me, she’s been one of my biggest role models.”
Andrew mentioned the influence that Alexis and their mother Carla—a former All-American in track at Angelo State and Texas A&M—have both had on his athletic career. “I see how hard they work, I see their dedication, and I see how good they are,” Andrew said, “so it’s like, I can’t be the only boy in the family that’s not doing anything. So I just wanted to compete with them and try to make them proud.”
To Andrew’s knowledge, Alexis has not faced trolling or harassment from people who castigate women’s sports. However, Andrew is aware of the “flack” female athletes often receive and, when asked what he would say to people who dismiss or ignore women’s basketball, he had an unequivocal response. “You gotta understand: women’s basketball is actually good,” he said. “Watching my sister is very unique. Seeing women play basketball is very fun. And if you’re really a true basketball fan, you’ll actually enjoy the games too.” He emphasized “good,” “unique,” and “fun” and spoke slowly and clearly, as if willing his audience to understand.
Despite the heights that all four players have reached on the basketball court, both sibling relationships are predicated on much more than basketball. “[Alexis and I] rarely talk about basketball when we’re together,” Andrew said, “but when we do talk about basketball, we could talk for hours.” Fashion, clothes, and music are some of Andrew and Alexis’s favorite conversation topics, while Donovan and Kelsey frequently discuss current events and make jokes. “We really just enjoy each other’s company,” Donovan said. “[We] talk about stuff that we can’t talk about over the phone or through text, just catching up with each other.”
One subject that has regularly been on Andrew and Alexis’s minds is health. The siblings survived a car crash as children that left their father paralyzed; Alexis has had multiple knee surgeries, including ACL surgery in college and arthroscopic knee surgery this past October; and Andrew recently returned to game action after battling leukemia. When one or both siblings have battled health problems, “we just really pull to each other,” Andrew said. “We have a great family—we really support each other, so in our times of need, we really come together.” On November 5, Andrew had a storybook return to the court, scoring a career-high 20 points in his first game in nearly two years.
Andrew and Donovan have also used their shared experience as brothers of WNBA players as a way to bond as teammates this season. Donovan said that the topic came up in his first week on campus, and he and Andrew have frequently discussed it since. “I tell him he’s like a younger me,” Andrew said. “We’re in the same situation … trying to fill the shoes of our older sisters.”
Last year, with Andrew battling cancer and Donovan still in high school, the Longhorns finished sixth in the Big 12 and missed the NCAA Tournament. This season, with both players available to complement nine returners, the team will aim higher. Expectations—whether those of Longhorns fans or those that come with having a standout sibling—can be difficult to live up to. However, far from shying away from their families’ success, Andrew and Donovan are inspired by their sisters and motivated to match their accomplishments. After all, if Alexis and Kelsey beat the odds to play professionally, overcoming adversity and doubters along the way, who’s to say their little brothers can’t do the same?
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