It’s the heart-warming story of an extraordinary friendship with a princess who captured the heart of a man, but he’s no prince, he’s “Superman”.
“Princess Lacey” is Lacey Holsworth, an 8-year old from St. Johns, Michigan who is battling a form of nerve cancer known as neuroblastoma. In her on-going fight with the disease, Lacey has drawn great strength and happiness from her special friendship with Michigan State’s, Spartans center, Adreian Payne, or “Superman” as she fondly refers to him.
The pair was first introduced last season when the team went to visit Sparrow Hospital in Lansing where Lacey was a patient. From that point on, a solid brother-sister relationship began to develop and grew stronger with every visit by Payne as they continue to text, tweet and call each other constantly.
On Tuesday, Lacey experienced a set-back as she suffered a seizure, adding to an already challenging winter for the young girl who had to undergo radiation treatment on her jaw and neck when chemotherapy failed. Her resilience is incredible as she has met challenge upon challenge, all while wearing her infectious smile. Last year a large tumor was found in her stomach that wrapped around her spine, as a result, she was paralyzed for a few months, but she fought back stronger than ever.
“She’s fighting cancer and I’ve never known anyone going through that,” said Payne. It’s tough. You can definitely grow from watching her. I fight, too, but I’m just playing basketball.”
After Friday’s victorious game against Delaware, in which her “Superman” scored an impressive career-high 41 points for Michigan, Payne was asked how Lacey motivates him.
“For sure,” Payne told reporters. “I talked to Lacey and her parents yesterday and it’s hard and it’s like having a family member that’s really sick and ill. The only thing you can do is just play basketball and you can’t be there with them. And just knowing that when I play well it makes her happy, it feel like I’m doing something in a way to help her feel better.”
Two days prior to Lacey’s seizure, she helped the Spartans cut down the nets at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. She also stole the show at the team’s awards banquet, as MSU’s coach, Tom Izzo, stood before the crowded banquet room to introduce Lacey with his eyes welled up with tears and his arm wrapped around her small shoulders. Afterwards, Payne swooped her up in his arms and held her. Even though the sole purpose of the gathering was basketball, the little princess was an important presence and foremost on their minds.
Recently, Coach Izzo was asked about Payne and the team’s special bond with Lacey, “I will never ever be prouder of a guy than I will be of Adreian Payne for a lot of reasons, Izzo said. “The academic success he’s had, coming from the position he was in. But what he’s done, I think that’s why we’re on the planet, to make other people’s lives better. And he’s made this girl’s life better. And our team has embraced it too and their family has embraced our team. But it’s hung on because of Adreian Payne solely – solely.”
Payne sums it up best as he describes their incredibly special bond, “She’s like a sister to me. I know one thing for sure. I’ll stay in contact with her forever.”
Heart-Warming Story of Princess Lacey and Spartans Basketball Star Adreian Payne