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When Coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartan basketball team took his players on a visit to a local childrenʼs hospital, he thought it would be a nice way to give back to the community.

What he never expected was 6-year-old Lacy Holsworth, who became a beloved part of the Spartan family and, sadly, passed away this week, two years after meeting the team.

The 8 year old, known as “Princess Lacey” was close to the entire basketball team, helping them cut down the net after the won the Big Ten Tournament and, along with the team, got a championship hat.

Little Lacey was especially close to forward Adreian Payne, who carried her on the court at MSU and joined him for the College Slam Dunk Championship during Final Four Weekend.

“Words can’t express how much I already miss Lacey,” Payne said in a statement. “She is my sister, and will always be a part of my life. She taught me how to fight through everything with a smile on my face even when things were going wrong.

I’m a better man because of her … it’s her smile that made America fall in love with her. I know she’s smiling and dancing in heaven right now. My princess is now an angel.”

The coach also released a statement Wednesday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Holsworth family today,” Izzo said on behalf of the entire program. “Princess Lacey has taught us all an incredible lesson about love, strength and toughness. We can all learn from her on how to handle adversity with class and dignity … She has become an inspiration to our team, our families, our university, and most recently our entire nation.

At just 8 years old, she has given us all a lifetime of memories. We are all saddened today, but we are all better people for having known Lacey. Her smile and passion for life will live in the hearts of everyone she has touched across our country.”

Lacey will certainly be remembered.

ESPNʼs Dick Vitale vowed to raise $250,000 in Laceyʼs name to fight cancer.

“This rips my heart out,” he said, “I’m gonna get that money if I have to give it myself.”

Michigan State has painted the campus rock for her and thereʼs a memorial planned for her on campus April 17.

They are all hoping to live the words of Matt Holmsworth, Laceyʼs Dad “Continue her legacy! Love unconditionally.”

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