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Michigan State Star Adreian Payne Wins the John R. Wooden Outreach Award For His Friendship With Lacey Holsworth

Adreian Payne and Lacey Holsworth cut down the net a the 2014 Big Ten Basketball Tournament
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Michigan State star basketball player Adreian Payne was in Los Angeles to accept the first ever Outreach Award, despite the passing of the young lady who called him “Superman”, and he referred to as his “little sister” just days earlier.

Lacey Holsworth passed away April 8th of neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer. But she was obviously with Adreian as the clearly dejected athlete accepted the Outreach Award at this year’s Wooden Gala in L.A. In accepting the award, saying,

“I learned so much [from Lacey]. Just seeing her fight every day. She taught me so much…she taught me to persevere through anything and just be strong…[the Outreach Award] is not just for me, it’s for her, and that’s the main reason why I came, because I wasn’t feeling too well, and I wasn’t going to come…I’m out here to receive the award on behalf of her, Lacey.”

Watch as ESPN analyst Jay Bilas interviews Payne prior to accepting the award:

My niece Chelsea (below, with Lacey) and brother Jeff brought the story of 8-year old Lacey Holsworth (a.k.a. Princess Lacey – her Twitter handle) and her friendship with basketball star Adreian Payne to my attention long before it became the most touching story of this year’s NCAA tournament. The little girl who heroically battled cancer for more than two years, and the star of her favorite team hit it off from the first time they met, and Payne has called Lacey his “little sister” ever since. It was extremely touching.

Princess Lacey with my niece Chelsea
Chelsea Stevens

The great thing about this is, the friendship and love that Adreian and Lacey had for each other would have happened, even if the national media didn’t pick up on it. These two were best friends long before MSU’s run in the NCAA tournament, long before Princess Lacey helped Payne cut down the nets to celebrate their Big Ten tournament championship, long before Adreian’s “little sister” accompanied him onto the court for Michigan State’s Senior Night ceremony. Not one bit of their friendship was fabricated for TV exposure, or for Payne to win an award.

As livelong Michigan fans, my family and I have been trained very well to despise Michigan State. But the relationship between Lacey and Adreian caused even the hardest Wolverine fans to step back and root for their rivals, knowing it would make Princess Lacey happy. I still hate Michigan State, as does my entire maize & blue bleeding family. But we all hate cancer more. I hope you’ll join me in echoing a quote from Princess Lacey herself: “I hope cancer gets cancer.

In the video, Bilas (who follows only one person on his Twitter account – Princess Lacey) mentions a fund that has been established to honor Lacey’s memory, and help her family with medical expenses associated with her 2+ year battle.

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