Baylor family embraces Isaiah Austin following career-ending diagnosis
Isaiah Austin expected to spend this week preparing for Thursday’s NBA draft. Instead, he’ll spend it preparing for life without the sport he loves, after learning Saturday he suffers from a rare condition that could threaten his life if he were to continue the strenuous workouts the game requires.
During routine medical tests conducted as part of the preparation for the draft, the former Baylor men’s basketball standout was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a genetic mutation that affects .02% of the population. One outcome of the condition is aortic enlargement, which could rupture his heart if overworked.
Austin had already overcome one incredible obstacle, having lost sight in one eye several years ago. He was projected to be selected in the second round of Thursday’s draft, which would have made him the first partially blind person ever to play in the NBA. (Multiple outlets have reported that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has invited Austin to attend the draft despite the diagnosis.)
The sophomore from Arlington shared the news Sunday in an emotional ESPN interview and via Twitter, showing his typical grace and character. “The draft is four days away, and I had a dream that my name was going to be called. I’m sorry (my supporters) couldn’t see me play in the NBA. But it’s not the end, it’s only the beginning,” he said. On Twitter, he added, “I would love to thank EVERYONE who has reached out to me. Toughest days of my life. But not the last! Life goes on. GOD IS STILL GREAT!”
The turnout of support illustrated exactly why you hear the term “Baylor family” used so often. Hundreds of Facebook comments and countless tweets were sent encouraging Austin. Prominent Baylor alumni, from fellow basketball players like Quincy Acy and Perry Jones III to others such as Robert Griffin III and Art Briles, urged prayers for Austin via Twitter. Support even came in from some recognizable names outside the Baylor family like Dick Vitale, Deion Sanders and Russell Simmons.
Head coach Scott Drew expressed hope that Austin would stay at Baylor to complete his degree and perhaps serve as a coach in the program. Any such decision will no doubt take time as Austin figures out what’s next in life; prayers for him and his family are very much encouraged over the coming days and weeks.
Sic ’em, Isaiah!