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More than basketball: Michigan State star forms friendship with 8-year-old cancer patient, Princess Lacey

SHARE More than basketball: Michigan State star forms friendship with 8-year-old cancer patient, Princess Lacey

Adreian Payne is a senior center for Michigan State, but he's also known as 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth's big brother.

It's a relationship that many Michigan State fans have followed, and now thousands have seen in a YouTube video.

Although it's nothing biological, Lacey and Payne have considered each other family ever since he first met her two years ago when visiting a local hospital where Lacey, also known as Princess Lacey, was being treated for neuroblastoma with a large tumor in her abdomen wrapping around her spine.

"On a normal trip to the hospital that we do once and a while, she asked him to stick around, and he did," Michigan State coach, Tom Izzo said in the video.

Ever since, Payne has continued to visit his friend, joining her for fundraising events and bringing her to his own basketball games.

"Lacey is a special friend. She's like a sister to me," Payne said. "She's taught me to fight through everything, to always continue to have a smile on my face, even when things are going wrong."

And the feeling is mutual.

"Adreian is my brother," Lacey said in the video. "I just think of him and I smile."

And according to Lacey's mother, Heather Holsworth, such smiles are sometimes rare.

"There are days when those smiles don't come as easily," Holsworth said in the video. "When he can walk in the room, you see her just light up like that. It means everything."

For Izzo, it has been a privilege to witness Payne and Lacey's interactions. Last November, when Lacey's condition worsened, Payne turned to his coach for support, and Izzo accompanied him to the hospital.

"The mother was whispering, 'AP's here to see you,' and as I sat there, just like a guy behind the scenes, and watched AP sitting on the bed with her, and the mother kept saying AP. And [Lacey] turned and her eyes opened for the first time in a couple days," Izzo said. "And it was just like her world was better."

As senior night approached, Lacey was determined to support Payne in his last home game. That evening, Payne carried Lacey throughout his entire senior celebration.

"I'm gonna be sad that he's leaving, proud of him as a player and maybe even prouder of him as a person," Izzo said.

But Izzo and Payne are certainly not the only people who have been touched by Lacey's story. Yesterday ESPN analyst Jay Bilas — who is known for not "following" anyone on Twitter — decided there was one account worth "following," the one for Princess Lacey.

"What a beautiful girl! And, two beautiful souls," the ESPN analyst with 19,000 followers of his own, tweeted on Sunday.

Payne, who was with Lacey, replied to Bilas with a photo.

A fundraiser for Lacey can be found on Give Forward.

Email: spetersen@deseretnews.com