DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A star college basketball player is refocusing his dreams for the future, after a startling medical diagnosis.
Isaiah Austin played two seasons for Baylor University, and declared for the NBA draft, which takes place on Thursday.
The 7’1” center averaged 11.2 points and 5.5 rebounds and helped Baylor reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament this year — an accomplishment that became even more inspiring because Austin has been blind in one eye since he was 16.
Analysts expected Austin to be drafted late first-round or early second-round, and the Arlington Grace Prep Academy alum worked out at the NBA combine in May.
This past Saturday, Austin learned he has a rare genetic disorder, called Marfan Syndrome, that will end his competitive play.
Marfan Syndrome is characterized by weak connective tissue in the body; and in Austin’s case, enlarged arteries in his heart — doctors told him, if he pushed himself too hard on the court, his heart could rupture.
“There are some things you just have to deal with in life. This is one of those things I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life, unfortunately,” Austin said.
He refuses to let the news keep him down.
Monday night, Austin was on the basketball court at Mo Williams Academy in a different capacity: mentoring young athletes.
The Portland Trailblazers’ Williams opened the academy less than two years ago, and says Austin is a fixture here, whether training himself, or helping the kids practice.
“When they see him walk through this door, that’s the inspiration to them, the motivation to them,” Williams says.
Austin will be in New York City on draft night, as a special guest of Commissioner Adam Silver, and will be considered an honorary draftee.
He then plans to return to Baylor in the fall for his degree.
“If [this diagnosis] happens to anyone, I think he can handle it. That’s what I told him about being able to fight through this,” said Ray Forsett, Austin’s coach from Grace Prep.
Austin credits his family, his coaches and teammates, and his deep faith in God’s plan for his life for seeing him through this period in his life.
He sees his purpose as someone who can take this turn in life, and use it to inspire others, and raise awareness of his condition.
“Basketball has always been a privilege in my life. I knew that the ball was going to stop bouncing eventually and for me it happened a little sooner than I thought. I feel like this is what my life is going to be. I’m happy with it. This is going to be my future,” said Austin.