EAST LANSING, Mich. (Lansing State Journal) -- Hundreds of Michigan State University students gathered at a campus landmark Wednesday night to bid farewell to "Princess Lacey," the 8-year-old St. Johns girl who became an inspiration for the MSU basketball team and its legion of fans.
"This little tiny girl, she wasn't that big," an emotional MSU basketball Coach Tom Izzo told the crowd. "She wasn't that strong. But she sure was powerful, wasn't she?"
An estimated 300 to 400 students attended the impromptu vigil for Lacey Holsworth, who died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
Several students painted The Rock — the unofficial campus message board along the north bank of the Red Cedar River — as a tribute to Lacey before most of the crowd arrived about 9 p.m.
Students held burning candles and sang the university's song "Shadows."
By the time the vigil had ended, The Rock was adorned with hundreds of messages, including "RIP Princess Lacey," "Stay Beautiful" and "Spartans Forever."
MSU power forward Adreian Payne, who brought Lacey with him to Dallas for the college slam dunk contest last week, was among several players at the vigil.
The ceremony came together after MSU junior Danielle Bott posted the idea on Facebook.
"I was sitting at work (on Wednesday) and started thinking that it would be a really cool idea to paint the rock for Lacey," Bott said. "She's an angel now. We're excited to do this for her."
MSU senior Dylan Jones of Royal Oak said Lacey became a huge inspiration to MSU fans everywhere.
"It was nice to see they could get her out there for that dunk contest," he said.
Izzo said he was proud of the students for their show of support. He said Lacey's parents told him she was smiling when she died.
"I'm not sure I'd be that tough," he said. "I'm not sure my players would, and I'm not sure you would," he said.