LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — An 8-year-old girl who formed a special bond with Michigan State basketball star Adreian Payne has died after losing her battle with cancer.
Lacey Holsworth, also known as “Princess Lacey”, became friends with Payne about two years ago when the MSU team visited her in the hospital.
Recently, Lacey sat on the sidelines while MSU played in the NCAA Tournament and was also invited to Texas to help judge the slam dunk contest last week.
Matt Holsworth, Lacey’s father, said she died at their home in St. Johns late Tuesday “with her mommy and daddy holding her in their arms.”
Her family posted this message on her Instagram page early Wednesday morning: “Princess Lacey has achieved the ultimate victory. She now dances among angels. The world is a better place because you were in it. Our hearts are broken. We love you Doll. Dance all night.”
Adriean Payne released this statement Wednesday via social media:
“Words can’t express how much I already miss Lacey. She is my sister, and will always be a part of my life. She taught me how to fight through everything with a smile on my face even when things were going wrong. I’m a better man because of her. She said she first liked me because of my smile, but it’s her smile that made America fall in love with her. I know she’s smiling and dancing in heaven right now. My princess is now an angel.”
Michigan State University Head Basketball Coach Tom Izzo also released this statement on behalf of the MSU basketball program:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Holsworth family today. Princess Lacey has taught us all an incredible lesson about love, strength, and toughness. We can all learn from her on how to handle adversity with class and dignity. She has become an inspiration to our team, our families, our university, and, most recently, our entire nation. At just eight years old, she has given us all a lifetime of memories. We are all saddened today, but we are all better people for having known Lacey. Her smile and passion for life will live in the hearts of everyone she has touched across our country.”
Wednesday evening, people gathered at an MSU campus landmark — a large, painted rock — to hold a vigil for Lacey. They wrote messages to Lacey on the whitewashed rock.
“We mourn someone who we feel was our own,” Aaron Schroeder, an MSU student from Grand Haven, said.
–The Associated Press contributed to this report.