Adreian Payne and the Michigan State Spartans were eliminated from the NCAA basketball tournament Sunday, but he is a part of one of the best stories.
The friendship that has developed between Payne and eight-year old Lacey Holsworth has gained national attention, and it is a feel good story regardless if you follow college basketball.
Lacey was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops in immature nerve cells throughout the body on December 28th, 2011.
MSU coach Tom Izzo encourages his team to occasionally visit local hospitals to hopefully cheer up patients who are stricken with illness. On one such visit, the team went to Lacey’s room. When the team was about to leave, Lacey asked Payne to stay, because as she says “I liked his smile.”
As Payne was about to leave, Lacey asked for his phone number. The two have spoken or texted for almost every day for over a year. After she came home Payne left tickets for her and her family for every Michigan State home game.
In November 2013, Lacey’s cancer returned. She underwent aggressive chemotherapy treatment at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital. She insisted there be a sign outside her room that said “No visitors.” The nurses knew that did not include Payne, or he is known by Lacey as “A.P.” As she lay in her bed, her mother Heather said “Adriean is here” she opened her eyes for the first time in two days and smiled.
Payne lost his mother when he was 13 who had an acute asthma attack, she was gasping for breath outside a window in their home. Payne said “She died in my arms.” His father was in prison at the time and he was raised by his grandmother. She passed away in 2012.
It is tradition that during college teams last home games they have “Senior Night.” Each senior player is honored with a framed jersey and are introduced with their parent(s) and are given a chance to speak to the crowd. Payne brought his father and Lacey, part of his comments were about her.
Adreian Payne has played his last college game. Lacey is both happy and excitied saying “It’s kind of sad but I’m kind of happy for him, I think of him all the time and I love him.”
Payne has said “She taught me to fight through everything, to always continue to have a smile on my face even when things are going wrong.”
She calls him “My Brother.” He calls her “Little Sis.”