University of North Florida basketball player, boy with cystic fibrosis form remarkable bond

By: Brittney Donovan , Action News Jax

Updated:

Dallas Moore is the best basketball player to ever play at the University of North Florida.

His basketball career is impressive. He had 2,437 career points -- second all-time in conference history -- and hit more than 48 percent of his career shots while at UNF.

But if you talk to people on the North Florida campus, they’ll tell you the lesser told story is Moore as a person.

Moore befriended sixth-grader JP Thornton, a vibrant 12-year-old and huge UNF Ospreys fan, in 2016.

JP said he goes crazy in his spot in the stands in section 13 every time the team makes a 3-pointer.

The stands got a little quieter in April, when JP became confined to a hospital bed.

“I got this email from a season ticket holder,” UNF men’s basketball coach Matthew Driscoll said. “She says I have a really close friend whose son is a huge fan. They just took him into the hospital, and they don’t think he’s going to make it.”

JP was born with the cystic fibrosis gene, but had shown few signs of the disease before last year.

JP’s dad said he was in the ICU for three days, and spent five weeks in the hospital.

He was eventually put on a ventilator.

Moore and a few other players visited JP in the hospital.

“He was in a down spot. He lost a lot of weight,” Moore said. “His parents knew and they didn’t think he could make it. He didn’t know a lot was going on, but he knew enough.”

Moore said all of the players broke down and cried after visiting Moore. They asked Driscoll if they could go back and visit him again.

“Having doctors wake you up middle of night is not fun, not fun stuff” JP said. “Some nights I didn’t get sleep.”

The smile and the energy is now back but during those five weeks, JP’s fandom grew into a friendship with Moore and his teammates.

“They’ve been so nice to me,” JP said. “Dallas, he came to my house to hangout with me -- and Chris and Melo, can’t forget about those guys -- but especially Dallas. Dallas has been the best to me.”

JP’s dad said the support from the basketball players was a blessing for him, too.

“Took my mind off it,” he said. “To care enough to sit three hours in a hospital bed to make your son feel better, is really special.”

Every home game, JP leaves his seat in section 13 at halftime and greets the team coming out of the locker room.

“I like to give them high fives and tell them how good they are playing, try to give them confidence to do even better,” he said.

On Moore’s senior night, JP didn’t need a seat. Moore’s parents invited him to walk with their family onto the court.

That night JP gave Moore a special gift.

“He gave me a gift - the picture in a frame - and wrote me a long note and made me tear up a little bit,” Moore said.

JP said he really wanted Moore to know how thankful he is.

“He’s done so much for me. I should thank him, not just text him. Really write him a note telling him how much he means to me,” JP said.

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