Fighting spirit fuels Casa's Forni

The kids knew. Oh yes, last spring, they knew. The kids on Casa's basketball team knew how much James Forni loved to coach, loved coaching them, actually. They knew how those cancer treatments sapped his strength. They could see it in his movements, in his weight loss. But he didn't back off. Forni made all 28 games. He only missed three practices. He pushed himself and, in the process, he ended up pushing them.

He pushed them to think beyond their own immediate desires. Coach, how come I'm not playing more? Why do we have to run so much in practice? Why can't I take that shot? Huh? Huh? Huh? Those questions and so many others — so typical in youth sports — were never asked. Through his sheer energy and determination, Forni made them see a world much larger than the adolescent one they were inhabiting, the one of instant gratification.

"They never complained," Forni said. "They knew they couldn't."

How could they, really? They never saw their coach feel sorry for himself. And the more information they acquired, the more they learned what had happened to him, what was happening to him and what could happen to him, the more James Forni became more than just a coach. He became a symbol. Of what courage looks like.

"He's fighting all the time," said Casa guard Brycen Poarch. "He's putting out 100 percent. We need to do the same thing. He has helped me and the team, to make us more mature. This can happen to anybody, regardless of what age you are."

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