Evanston, Ill. — It’s been nearly two years since Lacey Holsworth lost her battle with cancer, but the 8-year-old from St. John’s is still having a lasting effect on Michigan State and college basketball as a whole.
As part of Shoe Carnival’s Suits and Sneakers Week, coaches and players from around the country are wearing gold shoe laces in their sneakers. Sales of the laces will benefit Coaches vs. Cancer and Princess Lacey’s Legacy in their fight against pediatric cancer.
On Thursday, players and coaches at Michigan State and Northwestern wore the laces in their game at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Lacey’s story, of course, became national news in the spring of 2014 as her friendship with then Michigan State senior Adreian Payne was the topic of many stories around the country. That made Thursday’s game special for the Spartans.
“Lacey was a huge part of my sophomore year and the gold laces represent her and the fight she had and how strong she was,” Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine said. “She was a strong young girl and I don’t know if I could sit there and battle cancer. She was so young and hadn’t experienced life yet. She was battling it but every time you saw her she’d have a smile on her face. She was happy with life even though she was going through that.
“Anything we can do to pay her respect we’re gonna do that.”
Valentine said he intends to wear the laces for the rest of the season.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was contacted by the folks at Shoe Carnival about the plan and he jumped at the chance to help.
“This is awesome,” Izzo said. “I called AP before the game to tell him we’re supporting his girl, Princess Lacey tonight. All the coaches are doing it. … We’re all in it but Michigan State, because of Adreian, started it with her and I think it’s pretty cool we get to be a part of it — a big part of it.”
The kids step up
Michigan State got a big lift from a pair of freshmen in Thursday’s 76-45 victory over Northwestern as Matt McQuaid scored a career-high 17 while Deyonta Davis scored eight, matched a career-high with 11 rebounds and had a career-high six blocks.
Add a solid 15 minutes from redshirt freshman Kenny Goins, and it was a big night for the youngsters.
“I thought our three freshmen won the game,” Izzo said. “Deyonta Davis with the blocks he had, and some were phenomenal. Kenny Goins’ stats won’t show it but he did a lot of great things, and Matt hit some shots.”
Izzo loved it, but he wanted more out of his seniors, who were huge in the win over Maryland last weekend. In that game against the Terrapins, Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello were the key
Against Northwestern, each had their struggles. Costello was in foul trouble most of the game and played just 12 minutes while Forbes took only six shots. Valentine had 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists, but he had six turnovers.
“All three (freshmen) played well,” Izzo said, “yet we need Costello in the game and Zel mentally in the game and Bryn shooting. Three freshmen are great, but we need our three seniors.”
Senior scored 19 in win over Northwestern.
Milestone for Izzo
Michigan State’s victory gave Izzo his 513th career win and moved him past Gene Keady and into sole status with the second-most at a Big Ten school. Indiana’s Bob Knight has 661.
“Since Gene Keady is one of my favorite guys, other than Jud (Heathcote), it’s humbling,” Izzo said before the game. “But I think we play more games now, maybe that has something to do with it. There’s a lot of reasons. … To maintain the program he maintained and to win the Big Ten championships he won, I guess I would have to say it would be a hell of a accomplishment for me because of the respect I have for him.”
Izzo is third overall in Big Ten wins with 238, trailing Knight (353) and Keady (265).
“That’s huge for coach,” Valentine said. “He’s a great coach and he knows what he’s looking at and knows what a championship team looks like. Coach has done a lot of great things here and will go in the Hall of Fame and it couldn’t happen to a better guy.”