Isaiah Austin was just days away from seeing his dreams come true at the 2014 NBA draft on Thursday night. In a terrible turn of events, the 7'1" center from Baylor has been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a career-ending condition "caused by a genetic mutation that leads to problems in connective tissues throughout the body," per the Bears website.
Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew spoke about Austin's medical condition, per the Baylor report:
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. 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.
Austin issued a statement about the news, via the Bears men's basketball official Twitter account:
"I'm sorry (my supporters) couldn't see me play in the NBA. But it's not the end, it's only the beginning." - @IsaiahAustin— Baylor Basketball (@BaylorMBB) June 22, 2014
Crushing as the news of Austin's condition is, NBA commissioner Adam Silver did what he could to ease some of the disappointment:
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has invited Baylor's Isaiah Austin to come to Thursday's NBA Draft as his guest.— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) June 22, 2014
Holly Rowe of ESPN spoke with Austin about the career-ending condition:
Rowe also passed along that NBA commissioner Adam Silver has invited Austin to the draft despite the news that ended his career before it began:
Really neat that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has already reached out to Isaiah Austin & invited him to NBA draft despite diagnosis. #class— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) June 22, 2014
Austin also commented on the news via his Instagram account with the following caption:
This game. It is a platform for anyone and everyone who comes in contact with it. I was blessed enough to play it on one of the highest levels despite the odds that were stacked against me. Blessed is all I can say. Thankful is all I can be. The love from you all is greatly appreciated! I know God has a plan! If I can say one to to anyone, it would be please, please do not take the privilege of playing sports or anything for granted.
The news of Austin's genetic condition comes after the 20-year-old overcame another condition during his college career. The big man announced during his sophomore campaign that he had a detached retina, causing him to be blind in his right eye.
Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports shared his thoughts on Austin's latest announcement:
Absolutely heart-breaking news re: Isaiah Austin. Live long, my friend.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) June 22, 2014
ESPN's Darren Rovell confirmed with Austin's agent that he has an insurance policy:
Former Baylor Bears center Isaiah Austin, who saw his dreams of playing in the NBA abruptly come to a halt this week, has an insurance policy worth at least $1 million, his agent Dwon Clifton confirmed to ESPN.com.
"We will get through this week and then we'll file the claim and get the ball rolling," Clifton said.
The Baylor product averaged 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks during his two years with the Bears. After his productive career, he was widely seen as a potential early second-round selection in multiple mock drafts, including those from CBS Sports.
Little is known about Austin's condition at this time, but Marfan.org notes that only about one in 5,000 people have the condition and that it can affect the heart and blood vessels, bones or joints, possibly getting worse over time. The site also notes that the chances of someone with the condition passing it on to their children is 50 percent.
Derek Bodner of Draft Express notes the silver lining to Austin's career-ending news:
Feel awful about Isaiah Austin's career. Feel great about him being able to get proper treatment for it, though. Best of luck to him.— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) June 22, 2014
Luckily for Austin, it appears he has received the diagnosis early enough to treat the condition. Marfan.org also notes that there is a "risk for potentially life-threatening complications" if not detected early on in the process.
The unfortunate news ends what might have been a potentially great career for the young man. With his size and outstanding defensive play, Austin had the look of a promising developmental player in the future.
He now has a difficult journey ahead as he focuses exclusively on regaining his health and overcoming this obstacle. However, it's clear he possesses the positive mindset, perseverance and strength to defeat this challenge.
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