Josh Titus, the former high school student from Auburn who inspired thousands of basketball fans across the nation by not letting his disability keep him off the court, was remembered by friends and family Thursday, the day after he died following a battle with cancer.

Titus died Wednesday at the Hospice House in Auburn, according to statement from his parents. He was 25.

Titus, who was autistic, served as the manager of the Edward Little High School boys’ basketball team in 2009. He made national headlines when he entered the Red Eddies’ final game of the season and scored nine points.

“I was blessed to have known Josh. We all were,” Mike Adams, Edward Little’s head basketball coach, said in a telephone interview Thursday night. “It has been a hard day for everyone.”

Yusef Iman, who was the team’s starting point guard in 2009, used one word to describe his friend: “inspirational.”

“The city of Auburn lost a son, our team lost a teammate, and I lost a friend,” Iman said Thursday night. “Win or lose after a game, he was always a positive energy. He wanted us to succeed and to win. Josh believed in us, and that was the most important thing he brought to the game.”

Adams has vivid memories of Titus’ performance in the team’s final game of the 2009 season against Leavitt High School.

Adams spoke to the opposing team’s coach before the game and gave him a heads up that Titus might play. Adams said he wanted to give the senior a chance because it would be his last game.

When the home crowd started chanting “Titus, Titus,” Adams turned to his bench and called Titus’ name.

Titus proceeded to make several shots, including a 3-pointer during the fourth quarter of the game, which Edward Little won handily. Iman said there was an electricity in the atmosphere that night, a feeling that whatever Josh did was going to work.

“It was meant to be,” Iman recalled. “It was Josh’s night,” one that left all involved deeply moved.

“After the game, Josh cried. It was such a beautiful moment and he deserved it,” Adams said.

Titus’ performance came on the same night that Greely High School manager Patrick Thibodeau, who has Down syndrome, entered the Rangers’ final home game and scored two 3-pointers.

Together, their performances were selected as one of the top 10 high school sports stories of 2009 by ESPN.

The Maine boys were compared to Jason McElwain, an autistic manager for a high school team in Greece, New York, who scored 20 points in four minutes of a game.

McElwain, Titus and Thibodeau were featured in a two-part CBS Sports documentary, and Titus and Thibodeau were both invited to the 2009 NCAA Final Four in Detroit.

Adams said that invitation represented another highlight in his former student’s career, with the high school holding an assembly attended by about 1,000 students and teachers as a send-off. “Josh walked through the crowd like he was Moses parting the Red Sea and got into the limo. The kids just stood up and started cheering,” Adams recalled. “What other kid his age that you could think of would dare to do that?”

Laura Davis Rinck, the president of Rinck Advertising in Auburn, said the CBS Sports documentary aired in a pregame segment before the NCAA Final Four games that year. Since then, Rinck’s firm has worked with the Titus family, and on Thursday issued a statement on behalf of his parents.

“That (documentary) represented a turning point in Josh’s life because of his determination and the way he faced challenges in his life,” Rinck said Thursday evening. “He became this amazing inspiration to people all over the country.”

Rinck said many people talk about how it takes a village to raise a child, but in the case of Titus, she said, “From my perspective, it takes a kid like Josh to change a whole village. He was an extraordinary young man, who is absolutely beloved.”

Titus and Thibodeau both received the “Spirit of the Game” Award at the Maine McDonald’s All-Star Banquet after the 2009 season.

Seven years later, the awards are named for Titus and Thibodeau and are given to a person who embodies the spirit of the sport, exemplifies sportsmanship, shows an ability to overcome obstacles and boundaries, and inspires their teammates and coaches.

Rinck said that Titus, who most recently worked in the food service department at Bates College, spoke at the McDonald’s banquet last month. In fact, he made a point of speaking every year at the banquet.

“Yesterday, our loving and amazing son, Joshua, passed away after a brief and brave battle with cancer,” Andy and Carolyn Titus said in a written statement. “We will forever remember Josh’s infectious smile, his love for basketball and the pride he had as the team manager for the Edward Little boys’ varsity team and his involvement with the Maine McDonald’s High School Senior All-Star Basketball games, his love for numbers and his desire to one day be an accountant.”

His parents said their son made his family and friends feel special. “We are saddened that Josh is no longer with us and ask for privacy as we grieve with our son, Nate, and family,” they said.

His parents are asking that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine at 250 Brackett St. in Portland, 04102.

Titus’ funeral service is scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m. at The Fortin Group/Plummer & Merrill Funeral Home in Auburn.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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