Adreian Payne's Relationship with an 8-Year-Old Cancer Patient Is Unshakable

Dan CarsonTrending Lead WriterMarch 26, 2014

Mar 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans center Adreian Payne (5) hold up the net with 8 year old cancer patient Lacey Hollsworth after defeating the Michigan Wolverines in the championship game for the Big Ten college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Michigan State defeats Michigan 69-55. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the right teammates, you can get through anything.

Adreian Payne met Lacey Holsworth two years ago. It began like any other athlete-meets-ailing youth story, with Payne and the Michigan State men’s basketball team visiting a children’s hospital to spread a bit of cheer.

Where the narrative differs, however, is the sense of duty and attachment MSU’s 6’10” senior developed for Lacey. Lacey asked him to be her friend. He became her brother.

Lacey is an eight-year-old from St. Johns, Mich., living with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. When Payne first met Lacey, she was paralyzed. A large tumor in her abdomen had wrapped itself around her spine and doctors were unsure whether or not she would walk again. 

The two stayed in close contact, texting on a daily basis and visiting each other as often as their schedules allowed. Lacey eventually reclaimed her ability to walk and was on hand with roses for Payne’s senior night, according to AJ Willingham of

She also helped cut down the net when the Spartans won the Big Ten tournament.

The young cancer fighter has become an unofficial mascot for the Spartans basketball team. Coach Tom Izzo and company love her; the fans cheer for her. ESPN’s Jay Bilas even began to follow her on Twitter. She is the only person in the world who can claim that. 

Just when everything had returned to normal and Lacey’s family dared to hope the disease had left for good, it appeared again in her jaw and neck last November. It was a devastating development for the Holsworth family, but her parents take comfort knowing their daughter has a big brother to help her through the times to come.

“She’s had a real rough four months,” said Lacey’s father, Matt Holsworth, via the Detroit Free Press. “It’s crazy the things she’s had to go through. But Adreian kind of helps break that up. They keep fighting for each other. He’s fighting on the basketball court and in the classroom and she’s fighting for her life.”

Like basketball, life can be a game of runs. Payne’s “Princess” (his nickname for Lacey) is battling through yet another unthinkable stretch in a life too young to see so much pain.

Lacey isn’t alone, however. She’s got her family, and she has big brother. And big brother has her.


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