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Michigan State Star’s Friendship With Little Girl — Best Story of NCAA Tourney?

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At this year’s NCAA tournament, there’s one story that’ll make you forget all about your bracket—the story of Michigan State star forward Adreian Payne and 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth.

Lacey, also known as Princess Lacey, suffers from an aggressive form of cancer called a neuroblastoma. She and Payne met two years ago, when he was touring her hospital. The two became friends, and Lacey even helped Payne cut down the nets after Michigan State won this years Big Ten championship:

Adreian Payne and Lacey Hullsworth
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Payne has also attended a fund-raiser for her. “Lacey is a special friend,” he says. “She’s like a sister to me. … She has taught me to fight through everything.”

“Adriean is my brother,” says Lacey. “I just think of him when I smile.”

The two are in daily contact via text and Twitter:

Adreian Payne and Lacey Hullsworth

Michigan State plays No. 1-seeded Virginia on Friday in the Sweet 16. Surely Payne will hope to replicate his 41-point performance against Delaware in the first round, but win or lose, his friendship with Lacey will go on, inspiring anyone who hears about it.

“There are days when the smiles don’t come as easily,” says Lacey’s mother, Heather, of the times when Lacey’s cancer treatment isn’t going well. “He can walk in the room, and you see her just light up like that—it means everything.”

[Club 93.7]

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