Lacey Holsworth, the eight-year-old girl who served as a true inspiration to the Michigan State men’s basketball team, passed away on Wednesday after a long bout with cancer.
According to ESPN.com, Lacey suffered from fetal-nerve cell cancer known as neuroblastoma. Through her toughness and perseverance, she became a symbol of the Spartans’ success.
Lacey became part of the Michigan State family two years ago when she forged a bond with star forward Adreian Payne. Per Bleacher Report’s Jason King, she and Payne exchanged phone numbers during a hospital visit by Michigan State players, and that led to a heartwarming friendship.
King detailed the relationship between Lacey and Payne specifically. As evidenced by this exchange following Lacey’s chemotherapy treatment in November, it was almost as if Payne took on the role of a loving older sibling.
Upon learning of Lacey’s passing, King sent out a supportive message to her family as well as Payne:
My heart goes out to Lacey’s parents and brothers and to Adreian. And thank you for letting me share your story.
— Jason King (@JasonKingBR) April 9, 2014
Holsworth, who became known as “Princess Lacey,” could often be seen in the stands cheering on Payne and the rest of the Spartans.
Following Lacey’s tragic passing, her family tweeted out this message:
Princess Lacey has achieved the ultimate victory. She now dances among angels…. The world is a… http://t.co/SAXeJ4D4zH
— Princess Lacey (@adorablelacey) April 9, 2014
Lacey was a transcendent figure in college basketball, and her untimely death has already hit home for many.
Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press provides a statement from ESPN analyst Dick Vitale discussing Lacey’s passing:
“It inspired ESPN analyst Dick Vitale to call Lacey’s father, Matt Holsworth, and tell him he’s going to donate $250,000 in her name, with fund raising starting now at dickvitaleonline.com.”
“I can’t believe it,” Vitale said of Lacey’s death in a phone interview before sobbing for several seconds. “This rips my heart out, man.”
Michigan State assistant coach Dane Fife had a firsthand look at what Lacey meant to the Spartans, and it is something that he won’t soon forget:
Lacey Holsworth had an amazing little soul. She inspired us everyday. A precious little girl is gone, but her memory always stays.
— Dane Fife (@CoachDaneFife) April 9, 2014
The same is true of Michigan State guard Gary Harris, who was shocked by the news:
Even opposing coaches were well-aware of Lacey’s positive impact, as Binghamton University head coach Tommy Dempsey offered his condolences:
Sad to hear Michigan State Basketball inspiration 8 yr old Lacey Holsworth passed today. Parents count your blessings
— Tommy Dempsey (@tadempsey4) April 9, 2014
Head coach Tom Izzo has made Michigan State a model college basketball program over the years on the court, but the manner in which they embraced Lacey was even more impressive.
Lacey was battling a terrible disease, but Payne and the rest of the Spartans did everything they could to bring her joy.
The entire college basketball world will continue to mourn the loss of Princess Lacey, but her everlasting impact on Michigan State basketball certainly ensures that she will be forever immortalized.
(Copyright 2014, CNN, All rights reserved.)