Apr 12, 2014, 1:38 PM EDT
Michigan State senior forward Adreian Payne was honored at the John R. Wooden Awards Gala on Friday night in Los Angeles as Payne was given the first ever Outreach Award for his friendship with 8-year-old cancer patient Lacey Holsworth.
Holsworth sadly lost her life to neuroblastoma on April 9th after first being diagnosed in 2011.
Payne’s friendship with Princess Lacey became an international story this season as the 8-year-old Holsworth attended numerous Michigan State games, participated in Senior Day festivities with Payne and helped the Spartans cut down the nets in Indianapolis after their Big Ten Conference Tournament title. She also meant a lot to the Michigan State team and fanbase and head coach Tom Izzo gave a tearful speech at a candlelight vigil held for Lacey on Michigan State’s campus earlier this week.
The Associated Press was in Los Angeles to capture Payne’s speech upon accepting the Outreach Award:
“She wouldn’t want me to be sad,” Payne said. “It’s hard.”
The crowd stood to applaud Payne, who spoke softly in accepting the award, saying he nearly didn’t travel to Los Angeles after the girl’s death but was encouraged to by her father.
“He told me Lacey would want me to come out,” Payne said. “It’s not just for me, it’s for her. That’s the main reason why I came.”
Payne was also accompanied by Holsworth to the team’s season-ending banquet and traveled with him to Final Four weekend when the senior participated in the college dunk contest.
“I just wanted to keep winning games because I knew she looked forward to it,” Payne said. “Once it was over it just seemed like she had nothing else to look forward to.”
A memorial service for Holsworth is also set for Thursday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.
“I learned so much, just seeing her fight every day,” Payne said. “It’s really been hard. She taught me to preserve through anything.”
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