Josh Titus loved basketball, but no doubt he loved people even more.
I know when it came time for me to cover the Maine McDonald’s senior all-star basketball banquet each year I never had to seek him out, like clockwork he’d greet me in a corner of the hall where photos were being taken and he was ready to help me out.
Josh always volunteered to track down players being recognized at the banquet so the Bangor Daily News could take their headshots in anticipation of using them in the future, such as with the publication of the newspaper’s annual All-Maine teams.
He always wore a smile and had a kind word for everyone he brought to the photo area whether he knew them or not. It was a thoughtful, subtle example on his part to help ensure that everything ran smoothly on banquet night — a contribution always appreciated by both myself and our photographer.
But the banquet — and that photo-gathering effort — won’t be the same next year. Josh Titus died Wednesday.
Officials at Edward Little High School in Auburn, from where Titus was a 2009 graduate, said he succumbed from complications after surgery for a brain tumor.
Titus had become a focal point of the Maine McDonald’s banquet in recent years, as he along with Greely High School of Cumberland Center alumnus Patrick Thibodeau were namesakes for the annual Spirit of the Game Awards presented by Maine McDonald’s in conjunction with the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches.
Titus, who lived with autism, and Thibodeau, who has Down syndrome, were managers of their respective high school basketball teams and the subject of a CBS Sports documentary that aired during the 2010 NCAA Final Four pregame show after their coaches put them in to play during the teams’ final home games of their senior year.
Titus, for his part, showed considerable skills — scoring nine points.
At the 2009 Maine McDonald’s banquet they were named the first recipients of the Spirit of the Game Awards, which honor two high school seniors who embody the spirit of the sport of basketball, exemplify sportsmanship, and support and inspire their teammates and coaching staff.
A year later, the awards were named after them, with the North Division honor called the Joshua Titus Spirit of the Game Award while the South Division accolade similarly is named for Thibodeau.
And with each year that has ensued, the hundreds who attend the Maine McDonald’s banquet inevitably are brought to tears by a re-airing of the CBS story before the new Spirit of the Game Award honorees are announced.
The documentary, the Spirit of the Game Award and the relationships Titus forged with everyone from his high school teammates, coaches, teachers and classmates to others throughout Maine’s basketball community — including a newspaper guy in need of a little organizational assistance — should serve as an enduring and inspirational testimonial to his absolute honesty, his love of basketball, and his concern for others.
One last time, Josh, thank you.
His parents, Andy and Carolyn Titus, issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:
“Yesterday, April 6, our loving and amazing son, Joshua, passed away after a brief and brave battle with cancer.
“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, and the easy way he made friends and family 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.”