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Michigan State Spartans hold vigil in memory of Lacey Holsworth (photos)


A somber gathering surrounded “the Rock” on the Michigan State campus on Wednesday evening as Spartans head coach Tom Izzo, players, including Adrian Payne, and others, to mourn the passing of Lacey Holsworth.

Holsworth, the eight-year-old who went by “Princess Lacey,” passed away on Tuesday due to complications related to neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that most commonly afflicts young children.

Lacey was befriended by members of the Spartans men’s basketball team during a visit to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing in January 2012. A touching and loyal bond developed between Holsworth and Spartans player Adreian Payne, who became incredibly close with Lacey as she bravely battled. Payne escorted her out on the court during Michigan State’s Senior Night and helped her cut down a net after the Spartans won the Big Ten title last season.

Lacey later said that she was drawn to Payne because of his smile.

“I know she’s smiling and dancing in heaven right now,” Payne said in a statement through MSU, via the Detroit Free-Press. “My princess is now an angel.”

The statement continued: “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.”

Despite her declining health, Lacey was in New York and watched her pal Payne and his teammates play in their Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games during the NCAA Tournament.

“I mean, a week and a half ago, she’s with the team, in New York, sitting in the film room, going through everything she was going through,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “All that pain — and she’s got a smile from ear to ear.”

Holsworth’s story and struggles touched many, including ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who between sobs pledged to raise $250,000 in her honor.

“I can’t believe it,” said Vitale. “This rips my heart out, man. … I’m gonna get that money if I have to give it myself.”

A huge crowd assembled on MSU’s campus and many wrote messages on “the Rock.” Izzo specifically praised everyone in attendance for taking the time to honor young Lacey and her bravery, spirit and the way in which she battled.

“This, my friends, is awesome,” said Izzo. “I’m so proud of every single person standing here.”

Payne briefly addressed the crowd as well, saying, “You don’t know how much this means to me and her family.”

Michigan State reporters Mike Wilson and Matt Sheehan documented the touching, emotional scene and posted the following photos on Twitter.

A memorial service for Lacey is tentatively planned for April 17 at Breslin Center, but details still need to be worked out, according to MSU spokesman Matt Larson.

Thoughts and prayers go out to Lacey’s family, friends and the Michigan State community, especially the players, whose lives are permanently enriched thanks to a brave little eight-year-old girl who was taken away far too soon.