Medical condition ends basketball star Austin’s career

Posted Monday, Jun. 23, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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For Baylor coach Scott Drew, the news was as unnerving as any he’s ever heard.

On Saturday night, Drew and his staff drove to the Metroplex to the home of Isaiah Austin’s aunt and uncle and were told that Austin’s basketball career had ended because he has Marfan syndrome.

The crushing news came as Austin was preparing to celebrate one of the biggest days of his life as he was expected to be selected in the NBA Draft on Thursday.

During routine genetic testing performed recently by the NBA, Austin was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. The condition, caused by a genetic mutation that leads to problems in connective tissues throughout the body, can be life-threatening. About 1 in 5,000 people have the disorder, according to The Marfan Foundation.

An EKG test during a routine physical at the NBA Combine showed that the arteries in Austin’s heart are enlarged and that too much physical exertion could cause a rupture.

Drew and his staff learned of Austin’s condition from his mother, Lisa Green.

“It was a real emotional night,” Drew said. “Saturday night [Green] had family, and our coaching staff was there, and basically she broke the news to all of us there because she wanted [Austin] to see the support group was there to support him.

“He’s not going to be alone in this, and he’s got a lot of people that love and care for him.”

Austin expressed his gratitude his support group via Twitter on Sunday.

“I would love to thank EVERYONE who has reached out to me,” he tweeted. “Toughest days of my life. But not the last! Life goes on. GOD IS STILL GREAT!”

Ryan Blake, the senior director of NBA scouting operations, had projected Austin to be a late first-round or early second-round pick.

Now, the 7-foot-1 center/power forward is faced with uncertainties after leaving Baylor following his sophomore season to enter the NBA Draft.

But Drew said coaching could be in Austin’s future if he so desires.

“That’s definitely an option for him if he wants to come back and finish his degree and help with the team in any way,” Drew said. “Whatever he wants we want to be there to support him.”

The NBA also is supporting Austin, who has been invited by Commissioner Adam Silver to be his guest at the draft.

Austin has faced numerous adversities in his life. At age 12, he was hit in his right eye while playing baseball.

Doctors performed four surgeries in an attempt to save the eye. Green said he would regain his sight for a short time, only to lose it again.

After the fourth surgery in less than a year, Austin’s family was informed that the sight in his right eye couldn’t be saved.

Nevertheless, Austin helped Arlington Grace Prep Academy win two state basketball titles and was selected a McDonald’s All-American.

As a freshman at Baylor, Austin helped the Bears become the first Big 12 team to win an NIT title. And this past season he led the Big 12 in blocked shots with 119 as Baylor advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.

“Words can’t explain how thankful I am for the time I had to play this wonderful sport,” Austin tweeted Sunday. “It changed my life forever.”

Austin worked out for 10 of the 30 NBA teams over the past few weeks, including the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. But now his world has been turned upside down — again.

“Right now I know he’s not thinking long-term yet,” Drew said. “Long-term, nothing has been decided yet, but I know in the immediate future his mom and his family have just been overwhelmed with the support [Sunday] with texts and tweets and emails.

“His mom called and was just overwhelmed with how beneficial this has been with the family and seeing how many people care about him. She’s just been so appreciative.”

Drew believes Austin has the persistence, determination and tenacity to overcome yet another life obstacle.

“When people talk about toughness, you can have a picture of Isaiah Austin there, because what he’s gone through in the last few years with one eye and now Marfan syndrome, and how he’s persevered and overcome, that’s quite impressive,” Drew said. “Isaiah is blessed because he’s got a great family and he’s got a lot of people that really love and care for him.

“I know that always makes it easier when you’re going through tough times. He’s got a lot of godly people in his life to make sure he knows that God has a plan for him.”

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice

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