College basketball world pays tribute to Lacey

Michigan State's Adreian Payne cuts down the net with 8-year-old Lacey Hollsworth

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Young Lacey Holsworth left her mark not just on Adreian Payne and the rest of the Michigan State basketball team but on the entire college basketball community.

When former University of Detroit basketball coach and current ESPN analyst Dick Vitale heard that "Princess Lacey" had died Tuesday, he vowed to raise $250,000 for a cancer research grant in her name,

"I can’t believe it," Vitale told the Detroit Free Press. "This rips my heart out, man. I’m gonna get that money if I have to give it myself."

Vitale’s effort is made possible by the V Foundation, which funds cancer research and related programs.

Cancer claims 8-year-old 'Princess Lacey'

Vitale wasn’t the only one inspired to act.

MSU junior Danielle Bott came up with the idea of an impromptu farewell at The Rock, an actual rock on the north bank of the Red Cedar River, Wednesday night.

Bott told the Free Press that she was at work when the idea hit her.

"(I) started thinking that it would be a really cool idea to paint the rock for Lacey," Bott told the Free Press. "She’s an angel now. We’re excited to do this for her."

According to media reports, 300 to 400 students came to The Rock to celebrate Lacey’s life and to paint messages like "MSU <3s Princess Lacey" and "Love Like Lacey."

Payne, several of his teammates and coach Tom Izzo also attended the ceremony.

"You don’t know how much this means to me and her family," Payne told the crowd.

Payne signed The Rock, saying, "Love you Lil Sis Lacey. You was the best lil sis I had. RIP Lacey."

An emotional Izzo also spoke to those gathered.

"This, my friends, is awesome," Izzo said. "I’m so proud of every single person standing here."

Lacey attended MSU’s NCAA tournament games in New York, and just last week, watched Payne compete in a college dunk contest in Texas and helped him judge a high school dunk contest.

MSU released this statement from Payne earlier Wednesday evening:

"Words can’t express how much I already miss Lacey. 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.

"She said she first liked me because of my smile, but 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."