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'Heartbroken': Former Michigan State basketball star Adreian Payne dies at age 31

Former Michigan State standout Adreian Payne has died at the age of 31.

According to a statement from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, Payne died in a shooting early Monday morning.

The statement said the shooting occurred at 1:37 a.m. and that a male in his 30s who had been shot and was later identified as Payne, was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The statement also says the accused shooter, identified as Lawrence Dority, remained at the scene and was transported to OCSO headquarters where he was interviewed by homicide detectives. Dority has been arrested on a warrant for first-degree murder and transported to the Orange County Jail.

"I'm in shock at the tragic news of Adreian Payne's death," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. "Our prayers are with his family, teammates and loved ones.

"Adreian was loved by his teammates and coaches, who respected his development as a player and a person. He came to Michigan State with a ton of raw talent and put in the work to reach his goal of becoming an NBA player. Beyond that, he will long be remembered by Spartan fans for his kind heart, as his friendship and genuine bond with Lacey Holsworth touched the nation."

Payne’s friendship with Holsworth captured the attention and hearts of the basketball world in 2014. The 8-year-old Holsworth was suffering from cancer and had become close with Payne after the team had visited her during a hospital stay.

Their friendship was followed closely throughout Payne’s senior season — a feature on the Big Ten Network revealed the bond the two had — and he carried Lacey onto the Breslin Center court on Senior Day. Holsworth died on April 8 of 2014, just weeks after Michigan State’s season ended and two months before Payne became a first-round pick in the NBA Draft.

"This morning we received the tragic news of Adreian Payne’s passing,” MSU athletic director Alan Haller said at the press conference introducing Adam Nightingale as the new hockey coach. “To all members of the Spartan basketball family, his teammates and coaches, his family and loved ones — the thoughts and prayers of Michigan State athletics are with you.”

News of Payne's death began to circulate Monday morning on social media as several players and former teammates posted about the loss of the native of Dayton, Ohio, that played for the Spartans from 2010-14.

“Hate the news i received this morning…. Rest Easy to my brother/Teammate,” former Ohio State star Jared Sullinger Sr. posted on Twitter. 

More tributes continued Monday morning, including some who played with Payne at Michigan State as well as other former Spartans.

“Legit sick & heartbroken,” said Anthony Ianni, a teammate of Payne’s for two seasons at Michigan State.

Added Michigan State legend Magic Johnson, "Cookie and I are heartbroken to hear that former Spartan Adreian Payne has passed away. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and Spartan Nation! Adreian will be sorely missed."

Former Spartan and current Golden State Warrior Draymond Green tweeted four broken hearts. Green was among a large group of former Spartans, many who continue to play in the NBA and overseas, who returned to campus last fall for workouts. Payne was a part of that group.

"Today is a difficult and sad day for the Spartan basketball family," Izzo said. "Following graduation, Adreian regularly returned to East Lansing. In doing so, he developed and strengthened relationships with players from all eras. I've heard from many of those players today, each one experiencing heartbreak, and each one with their own fond memory of Adreian."

Payne saw his role at Michigan State grow each season he was with the Spartans, culminating in his senior year when he was named All-Big Ten, averaging 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds and helping the Spartans reach the Elite Eight before falling to Connecticut.

After being selected by the 15th overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2014 NBA Draft, Payne played parts of four seasons in the NBA with Atlanta, Minnesota and Orlando while also playing in the G League.

In 2018, Payne began playing overseas and spent the 2021-22 season with Juventus Utena of the Lithuanian Basketball League. He averaged 8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.

Longtime Michigan State assistant coach Mike Garland posted an emotional tribute to Payne on his Instagram page Monday afternoon. Garland praised Payne for overcoming numerous obstacles in life, including losing his mother at a young age and battling through learning disabilities to graduate from Michigan State.

“You made yourself into an exceptional person and player,” Garland said.

Garland also talked about what Payne’s relationship with Holsworth meant to the former player.

“You warmed her heart and I could see she warmed yours,” Garland said.

Garland closed his comments by likening Payne to a son.

“I want you to know, man, that I love you, I care for you,” Garland said. “My heart is torn. I’m grief stricken. May God bless you.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau