- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Adreian Payne’s infectious, boyish personality attracts kids. The children of Michigan State’s basketball coaches point to Payne as a favorite.

No kid, though, is a bigger fan of him than 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth.

The cancer-stricken girl quickly befriended Payne when she met him during one of her hospital stays two years ago and their relationship has become a feel-good story.

“They communicate and hang out like a brother and sister,” her father, Matt Holsworth, said in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s a unique and special bond.”

When it was Payne’s turn to be honored during the Spartans’ Senior Night ceremony earlier this month, Payne carried Holsworth around the court.

“She was tired that day,” Payne recalled last week in an interview with The Associated Press. “I just figured I’d pick her up instead of having her walk.”

He scooped her up again Sunday, taking her toward the top of a ladder as Michigan State celebrated winning the Big Ten tournament by cutting down the nets in Indianapolis.

“People from Michigan State got us out of the stands and brought us down to the court, and Adreian waved her over,” Matt Holsworth recalled. “They gave her a championship hat and she’s still wearing it.

“Then, we watched the selection show with the team and she was pretty wiped out after that.”

The little girl affectionately known as “Princess Lacey,” has neuroblastoma, a fetal-nerve cell cancer. She wears a long, blond wig because chemotherapy took her hair.

Back pain while dancing in 2011 led to the discovery of a football-sized tumor that had engulfed her kidney. After another tumor wrapped around her spine, her father had to carry her into a hospital on Dec. 28, 2011. She lost feeling below her belly button and couldn’t walk on her own for several months, a long stretch that included the first of many visits from Payne.

While Holsworth has had some victories in her battle, the cancer keeps coming back and has spread to her neck, head and pelvic region.

“We almost got rid of it after it was all over his body,” her father lamented. “She has been doing radiation because the chemo isn’t working. We may be part of a new, antibody-therapy study at the University of Michigan next week that.

“We’re just trying to buy time.”

Instead of getting paid to play this season in the NBA and a likely first-round pick, Payne chose to stay in college for his senior season and endured an injury-plagued season personally and collectively as a team.

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