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'Jumpers for Jace' tournament raises money for Memphis child's medical bills

Nine-year-old Jace Caldwell just started playing basketball when doctors found a cancerous tumor. His family held a tournament for his benefit on Saturday.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Saturday, Memphians came out to play basketball in an effort to support a special baller.

Nine-year-old Jace Caldwell just started playing basketball when doctors found a cancerous tumor on his brain. Surgery removed all of it, but doctors found four new tumors in May. Three of these were on his brain, and one was on his spine. 

Since the last diagnoses, Jace's family said the news has been hard on him. Enter a basketball tournament to show Jace how many people love and care about him. "Jumpers for Jace" was that tournament, organized by the Caldwell family.

Jade Caldwell, Jace's mother, said she was "just grateful" for the turnout.

"A lot of people came out just for him," she said. "[Some] didn't even want to watch basketball—just came to see him, so I know that makes him feel so good and it makes me happier than I've been in the past ... in a while." 

From the start, father Juvonte Caldwell said Jace has always been a quiet yet outgoing kid and, like him, just loved playing basketball.

“Besides school, basketball was his thing," Juvonte said. "I think he loved basketball more than he loved me.” 

Just as Jace’s basketball career started doctors found a cancerous tumor on Jace’s brain that required emergency surgery, but was successfully removed, allowing Jace to get back in the gym.

Just three years later, when Jace's his cancer returned, Jace was still determined to play.

“He would literally go get a whole day of radiation and chemo, he’ll go the game and he’ll play harder than anyone," Juvonte said. "He won't say 'aw dad I’m tired' or 'dad I’m hurting.' He would tell me he’s hurting, but I’d ask him if he wanted to come out of the game and he would say no.”

Caldwell said Jace was a natural-born shooter, adding that it was all due to Jace’s time spent with a family friend and trainer Frank Harris—the father of former Memphis go-to shooter Tyler Harris, who also inspired Jace.

“I can remember when Jace was born—I can remember when he turned two years old," Frank Harris said. "As soon as he turned two years old, Jace started shooting a basketball. Every day he was in my backyard, and he and his brother, shooting the ball.”

Tyler Harris said that Jace was the "smallest one around." 

“He was always just sucking up the knowledge from us, me, his older brothers," Harris siad. "He was always looking up just trying to learn new things.”

Coach Frank said Jace was a baller, snagging 20 and 30-point games during and after recovering from his second bout with cancer.

Still, two years later, at age seven his cancer returned.

“He fought through it a long time, up until this past year,” Juvonte said.

Right now, Jace requires 24-hour care, with doctors predicting his condition to worsen severely in the next six months.

“Every day this kid is fighting for his life, and I'll be honest, you can never count him out,” Frank said.

You can donate to Jace's cause with this gofundme link.

RELATED: Plans unveiled for inclusive baseball field and playground in Memphis

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