Michigan State senior Adreian Payne finds friend, fan and inspiration from ailing girl

Posted Saturday, Mar. 29, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

Michigan State forward Adreian Payne has built a large following of fans as he’s helped lead the Spartans to the brink of the NCAA Final Four.

But one fan has stood out and caught the attention of the national media.

Payne has befriended 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth and her family since meeting the girl during a team visit to a children’s hospital in Lansing, Mich. The two bonded, and Holsworth has helped inspire Payne this season. Michigan State (29-8) and Connecticut (29-8) play at 1:20 p.m. Sunday at Madison Square Garden for a berth to the Final Four in Arlington.

And Holsworth and her parents are in the Big Apple to cheer on Payne and the Spartans. He was sharing a text with her before meeting the media Saturday afternoon.

“When I get some spare time they’ll come over to the hotel and I’ll get to see them,” said Payne, whose mother died when he was 13. That loss, he suspects, is one reason why trying to help Holsworth, who has an aggressive form of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma, appealed to him.

“That may have something to do with it. And then I lost my grandmother when I was in college,” he said. “So I’m always willing to help. I always want to see kids do well.”

Plus, her toughness while battling cancer has helped Payne put things in perspective.

“She was a dancer and it was taken from her with the cancer,” Payne said. “She wasn’t able to walk or dance anymore. If basketball was taken away from me, how would I feel? So I wanted to help her get back strong so she could dance and smile and do something she loved.”

The friendship grew slowly at first because Lacey was so ill when they first met. But they kept in touch, and when she started recovering, they began to share text messages and phone conversations.

“There wasn’t really too much I could do with her at that point because she was so sick, but my presence was enough,” Payne said of their initial meeting. She really liked me being there, and her parents were going through so much. I told him they could call or text me to take their mind off it sometimes. And it grew from there. Lacey texted me and I talked to her and texted her back.”

And an unlikely friendship began to grow.

Payne’s bond with Lacey has touched the hearts of fans as the story spread during the Spartans’ tournament run. MSU coach Tom Izzo introduced her at the Spartans’ team banquet and Payne held her as she helped cut the net after MSU won the Big Ten tournament. The story even inspired ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who has over 668,000 Twitter followers but has famously rarely followed anyone else. He’s following one person now: Lacey, whose Twitter handle is @AdorableLacey.

“I was so moved by it I pushed the follow button,” Bilas told Keith Olbermann a few days ago. “We talk about toughness all the time, Tom Izzo talks about it. We’re all wimps compared to Lacey. She’s the tough, tough one. I haven’t done anything. The people that have done something are Adreian Payne, Tom Izzo and the Michigan State team and Lacey Holsworth. She’s a hero.”

And she’ll likely be in Payne’s arms, helping cut down the net Sunday afternoon if the Spartans punch their ticket to Arlington.

Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @StevensonFWST

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?

Thursday, October 30Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Thursday, October 30Full Scoreboard
Washington 10/30 7:00 PM ET
Orlando TV: CSN-DC, FSN-FL
New York 10/30 8:00 PM ET
Cleveland TV: TNT
Detroit 10/30 8:00 PM ET
Minnesota TV: FSN-DET, FSN-N
Utah 10/30 8:30 PM ET
Oklahoma City 10/30 10:30 PM ET
LA Clippers TV: TNT
Full Scoreboard
Week 9Full Scoreboard
New Orleans 8:25 PM ET
Carolina TV: NFL Network
Jacksonville 1:00 PM ET
Cincinnati TV: CBS
Tampa Bay 1:00 PM ET
Cleveland TV: FOX
Arizona 1:00 PM ET
Dallas TV: FOX
Philadelphia 1:00 PM ET
Houston TV: FOX
NY Jets 1:00 PM ET
Kansas City TV: CBS
San Diego 1:00 PM ET
Miami TV: CBS
Washington 1:00 PM ET
Minnesota TV: FOX
St. Louis 4:05 PM ET
San Francisco TV: FOX
Denver 4:25 PM ET
New England TV: CBS
Oakland 4:25 PM ET
Seattle TV: CBS
Baltimore 8:30 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: NBC
Indianapolis 8:30 PM ET
NY Giants TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Thursday, October 30Full Scoreboard
Boston 10/30 7:00 PM ET
Winnipeg 10/30 7:00 PM ET
New Jersey TV: TSN3, MSG
Los Angeles 10/30 7:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: NHLN, TVA2, FSN-W, ROOT
Chicago 10/30 7:30 PM ET
Philadelphia 10/30 7:30 PM ET
Tampa Bay TV: CSN-PHI, SUN
Arizona 10/30 7:30 PM ET
Florida TV: FSN-AZ, FSN-FL
San Jose 10/30 8:00 PM ET
Minnesota TV: CSN-CA, FSN-N+
Anaheim 10/30 8:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: FSN-PT, FSN-MW
NY Islanders 10/30 9:00 PM ET
Colorado TV: MSG+, Altitude
Montreal 10/30 10:00 PM ET
Vancouver TV: RDS, SN360
Full Scoreboard