by Melissa Brunner
One of the most compelling stories of the college basketball season began, not on the court, but two years ago in Michigan hospital room. Big, tall basketball players made a goodwill visit to sick children. One little girl took a liking to a certain player's smile. Her smile, in turn, made him - and all of America - fall in love with her.
Michigan State senior Adreian Payne formed a bond with eight-year-old Lacey Holsworth that shines in every photo and video that chronicled it on networks and newspapers nationwide this year. Lacey had neuroblastoma. They called each other brother and sister. Adreian called her his princess, she called him her superman. They were so close, it was Lacey who escorted Adreian on Senior Night. His grandmother, who raised him after his mother died, passed away in 2011, when he was a sophomore.
If you watched any NCAA tournament coverage, you likely saw Lacey. She was in the crowd cheering during the games. She was at his side just last week when he competed in the College Slam Dunk contest.
Lacey passed away late Tuesday night. Adreian Payne issued a statement saying, "I'm a better man because of her. I know she's smiling and dancing in heaven right now. My princess is now an angel."
Rest in peace, Lacey. Through Adreian, you came into all of our lives and brightened them with your smile. Someone so young, facing something so unimaginable, reminding us to enjoy the life we have been given, for as long as we have it. Thank you.
Michigan State Athletics snapped this photo of Adreian and Lacey at the Big 10 Championship last month. (Photo courtesy: Michigan State Athletics)