Only days before he was expected to be selected in the NBA draft, former Baylor star Isaiah Austin learned he will not be able to fulfill that lifelong dream.
Pre-draft medical testing revealed Austin has a genetic disorder known as Marfan syndrome that leads to problems in connective tissues throughout the body. The 7-foot-1 center announced Sunday that the condition will not allow him to play basketball anymore.
“This is devastating news, but Isaiah has the best support system anyone could ask for, and he knows that all of Baylor Nation is behind him,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said in a statement released by the school. “His health is the most important thing, and while it’s extremely sad that he won’t be able to play in the NBA, our hope is that he’ll return to Baylor to complete his degree and serve as a coach in our program.”
Affecting about 1 in 5,000 people, Marfan syndrome can impact many areas of the body, most commonly the heart, bones, joints and eyes. Some Marfan features – aortic enlargement, in particular – can be life-threatening, but early detection and treatment can help improve the prognosis of those who have the disorder.
It seems especially unfair for Austin to be diagnosed with this condition because he already had overcome so much to evolve into an NBA prospect. Austin has little to no vision in his right eye. Multiple operations couldn’t fix the detached retina and save his vision after he aggravated a previous injury performing a routine dunk prior to a middle school basketball game.
Austin made no excuses despite the injury, emerging as a McDonald’s All-American in high school and one of college basketball’s top shot blockers at Baylor. He started 72 of 73 games at Baylor and averaged 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 28.9 minutes per game, helping the Bears reach the Sweet 16 this past season.
Were Austin healthy, he had a good chance to be selected in the late first round during Thursday’s NBA draft. Alas, Austin’s focus now will be less on basketball and more on his health.