You might remember six-year-old AJ Cucksey as the cancer survivor who became friends with Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs.
After two years of treatments that included 41 rounds of chemotherapy for his seven brain tumors, AJ's condition is stable. His story has introduced him to a new group of friends: his beloved Oak Ridge Wildcats basketball team.
AJ idolizes the Wildcats like any other boy his age would: their dominance on the court.
"All the tall guys, they make good dunks," AJ said with a smile Monday. And I like dunks. And jams.”
AJ and his family reached out to the 30-2 Wildcats in the middle of the season. He met senior Tee Higgins at a girls basketball game, and the two formed an immediate friendship.
"Just by the way he's fighting for his life, he's a great kid," Higgins said. "That just makes me want to fight more...He's always active, wants to be out there with us, and I really like that."
Oak Ridge coach Aaron Green said he invited AJ and his family to come to the team's locker room after a game. Green said AJ led the team in prayer; it was a very emotional experience for him and several team members cried.
"What a heart he as," Green said of AJ. "I love having him around. He's an inspiration."
Green said AJ's message resonated with the entire team.
"Sometimes circumstances in life are not always what you want," Green said. "AJ is a prime example of when tough things happen, he's got a very positive attitude. He's grateful. He's talked about his blessings that he's had in his life. To me, that's an inspiration in itself."
Senior Tajion Jones said the relationship the team has with AJ is a loving one.
"It means a lot," Jones said. "We're playing for him, because of what he's going through. It feels good to have him on the bench with us and his energy. It's a nice feeling to have."
AJ likened his experience fighting cancer to the struggles an athlete faces.
"You can't give up," AJ said. "You have to keep trying your hardest even though you're out of breath you still have to say, 'Okay, I'm going to stick to this.'"
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