AUBURN — Josh Titus’ rise to national fame was so surreal, even he couldn’t resist comparing it to a Hollywood drama.

In February 2009, the Edward Little High School varsity basketball team elevated Titus from team manager to teammate on Senior Night. That’s when the magic happened.

With the EL student section chanting his name, Titus entered the game early in the fourth quarter. He quickly sank a shot. And then another and another after that, until Titus had put nine points on the board.

It was a night that propelled Titus to stardom, and it secured his place as a local basketball legend.

Titus, who had high-functioning autism, died Wednesday, according to his parents Andy and Carolyn, who issued a statement Thursday afternoon. He was 25.

“Yesterday, April 6, our loving and amazing son, Joshua, passed away after a brief and brave battle with cancer,” according to the 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, and the easy way he made friends and family feel special.”

A couple of days after his glory on the EL basketball court, Titus was national news. He shared the spotlight, as it turned out, with Patrick Thibodeau, the team manager with Down syndrome who had played for Greely High School in Cumberland on the same night.

Recognition for their achievements started locally. A special award was created in their honor and presented to them at a high school all-star basketball banquet by Jason McElwain, whose story had inspired Edward Little and Greely to get them in the game.

Then McDonald’s owners in Maine paid for a trip to the Final Four, and CBS broadcast a moving feature about them. They appeared on the “Today” show, and the Boston Celtics honored them as “Heroes Among Us” during a playoff game in May 2015. The Celtics also invited them to their summer youth camp.

Titus would go on to manage the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ NBA Development League affiliate.

For weeks, it was a flurry of attention for Titus, but the Auburn teen bore the attention with grace and confidence.

“It’s really helped him a lot,” his father, Andy, said at the time. “It’s brought him out of his shell a lot. A lot happened in six weeks, and he changed a lot. He was a little bit quiet and shy, and all of a sudden, being in the national spotlight, I think it really helped him a lot.”

“He just loved the limelight,” EL basketball coach Mike Adams said. “And nobody deserved it more than he did.”

Adams, like others, had as much to say about Titus’ role off the basketball court as on it.

“He was just such a special kid,” Adams said. “He brought the school and the community together, and he brought recognition to the school and the community in a way that nobody else could have done.”

Titus’ popularity at the high school transcended basketball, Adams said. The staff liked him. The other students liked him. He was a guy who was simply easy to cheer for.

“He’d walk into a room or hallway or the gym and he’d say hi to everyone. Everyone would say hi back to him,” the coach said. “I’ve never seen Josh in a bad mood or upset or sad. He made our lives better — there’s no question about that.”

Titus also helped educate the public about autism, Adams said, and to chase away some of the stigmas and misconceptions about it.

“He taught us so much during his time at EL,” Adams said. “What he did in his lifetime was just incredible.”

More recently, Titus had been employed at Bates College as part of the food service team, according to his obituary.

Dozens on Thursday were sharing their memories of Titus — both on and off the court — on his Facebook page.

“I was lucky enough to see his breakout performance as a basketball star and to be at the Celtics game where he was the guest of honor,” Ryan Timberlake of Lewiston wrote. “Both memories will last a lifetime. Never a lack of energy or enthusiasm, rest easy Josh; you will be missed.”

“Joshua Titus was one of the most devoted and hardworking people I’ve ever met,” wrote Kayla Cummings. “My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones today in hearing of his sudden passing. Josh your spirit will live on within all of our hearts forever! I will never forget your positivity, commitment to ELHS Athletics, and your will to win and overcome all odds. You are an inspiration to us all and will continue to be an inspiration to all Red Eddies for generations to come.”

Edward Little grad Troy Marshall Barnies referred to Titus as “the ultimate 6th man,” a reference to his performance on the basketball court.

“I’m truly saddened for the family of Josh and whoever was close to him as he was literally the best person you could have on your side,” Barnies wrote. “I wanted to share this personally because Josh played a HUGE role in many of the athletes’ lives at Edward Little. He was a true friend of mine and many others. The Edward Little basketball program will surely miss the amazing things he has done for the community and the city of Auburn.”


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