Lacey Holsworth, 8, dies of cancer

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"She has become an inspiration to our team, our families, our university, and most recently our entire nation. At just eight 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 stood with Izzo last month at the team's basketball banquet as the coach put his arm around her as he addressed the hundreds of players, families and others in attendance.

His message: What Lacey was going through put his team's injury woes in perspective.

"I've learned they're minor injuries when you look at life," said an emotional Izzo, who paused to gather himself. "One of the greatest things I've done in my 30 years here" was seeing Payne interact with Lacey during a hospital visit.

"Watching that moment, I could never teach that. I could never coach that. I learned from him," added Izzo, who said Lacey became the team's inspiration.

Former Detroit coach and longtime ESPN announcer Dick Vitale pledged to raise $250,000 toward cancer research over the next month and present a check in that amount in Lacey's memory during his annual gala to benefit The V Foundation for cancer research on May 16 in Sarasota, Fla.

"I talked to Matt (Holsworth) this morning. I promise you that we are not going to let her die in vain," said Vitale, who was thrilled to have Lacey attend his gala last year.

"I was just crushed," Vitale said of how he felt about Lacey's death when he found out Wednesday morning,. "They should take Lacey's picture and when they define courage it should have her photo right next to it."

Spartans guard  Gary Harris expressed his condolences on Twitter. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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