Adreian Payne with Lacey Holsworth in 2014. (Image via Michigan State on YouTube.)

The college basketball world has lost a notable figure, as former Michigan State Spartans forward Adreian Payne has passed away. Payne, who last played for Lithuania’s Juventus Utena from December to February, was 31. Former Ohio State Buckeyes player Jared Sullinger, currently playing for the Shenzhen Aviators of the Chinese Basketball Association, broke that news, and Chris Solari of The Detroit Free Press confirmed it:

Payne spent four seasons with the Spartans from 2010-11 to 2013-14. In his senior year, he posted 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and led the Spartans to the Elite Eight. The Atlanta Hawks chose him in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft, 15th overall, and he spent time with the Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Orlando Magic (and their affiliated D-League teams) from 2014-18 before heading overseas, where he would play in Greece, China, France, Turkey, and finally Italy. But what many really remember Payne for is the friendship he struck up with eight-year-old cancer patient Lacey Holsworth during the 2013-14 season, which drew national media attention. Here’s a feature Big Ten Network did on that in 2014:

Holsworth accompanied Payne to center court on senior night, and she helped him cut down the nets when the Spartans won the Big Ten tournament (as seen at top), then prominently rooted for the team through March Madness that year. But she passed away that April. This news on Payne had many thinking back to their friendship, though:

Our thoughts go out to Payne’s family and friends.

[The Detroit Free Press; image from the Michigan State Spartans on YouTube]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.