Life is unfair sometimes.
One moment, you’re having dreams of hearing your name called at the NBA Draft, maybe even by your favourite NBA team growing up. The next, you’re finding out that you’ll never be able to play the sport you love at a high competition level ever again.
That’s where former Baylor Bears star Isaiah Austin finds himself now in his journey through life.
On Sunday, we all learned of Austin’s situation. He was diagnosed with a serious medical condition that will force him to step away from the game he grew up to love for good. While he will never be able to realize his dream of hearing his name called at the NBA Draft, he will most definitely be remembered as a great basketball player who had an even bigger love for the game of basketball.
Austin, at just 21 years old, received news that nobody should ever have to endure at such a young age. He was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, which we will explain briefly a little later on.
Instead of focusing on the negatives, this article is designed to highlight Austin’s two-year stint in the NCAA at Baylor.
In 2012, when Austin was being recruited, he was the 3rd highest ranked player in the country according to ESPN. The 7’1” center was also ranked the #2 overall center by ESPN, behind only Nerlens Noel in terms of centers.
Austin chose to play at Baylor over the likes of Kentucky, Georgetown, Houston, and Texas. I think it’s safe to say that he made the right decision.
The native of Arlington, TX decided to stay in his home state of Texas, and excelled in his two years with the Bears. As a freshman in 2012-13, Austin averaged 29.9 minutes per contest. He averaged 13.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.7 blocks per game.
In 2013-14, he saw his production dip slightly in terms of points and rebounds. Last season, he only averaged 28.0 minutes per game, so the drop in minutes may be a main reason why his production dipped slightly. He averaged 11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 3.1 blocks per game.
As his career progressed throughout his two years in the NCAA, Austin developed into one of the NCAA’s premier shot blockers, evident by averaging 2.4 blocked shots per game during his time at Baylor.
Over his two seasons at Baylor, Austin averaged 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.4 blocks per game on 45.3% shooting from the field.
Austin declared for the NBA Draft after his sophomore campaign, to much criticism from so-called experts around the nation, saying he needed more time to develop and still had some weaknesses in his game. People questioned his work ethic and hustle, but Austin’s overall potential was never in question.
Even with the criticisms, Austin was projected to be a second-round draft selection in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft. We had Austin being drafted 5th in the second round, 35th overall, to the Utah Jazz in our NBA Mock Draft back in May.
Less than a week before the 2014 NBA Draft, where Austin thought he would be realizing his dream of making it to the NBA, his life changed forever.
He was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, which is a medical condition so severe that Austin is not allowed to play basketball at a high competitive level again in his lifetime. Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the tissue that holds all of the body’s cells, organs and tissue in place. Since connective tissue is found all over the body, Marfan syndrome can affect various parts of the body.
His arteries in his heart are enlarged, and if he was to push himself too far in terms of work or training, then his arteries could rupture and he could die.
To make things worse, Austin has been blind in his right eye since he was 16. He had a detached retina and four surgeries to follow to try and repair the eye. The fact that Austin still played as well as he did in the NCAA with being blind in on eye is truly remarkable.
Why do all of the bad things happening in the world have to happen to such great people? Austin has his whole life ahead of him, and now he won’t be able to walk across the state, shake Adam Silver’s hand and receive a jersey and hat from the team that drafted him.
Silver was generous enough to invite Austin to the NBA Draft as his guest.
Isaiah Austin is going through something that nobody should ever have to go through. At 21 years old, Austin is now being forced to grow up and mature much faster than most other 21-year-olds out there, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With the love and support of his family and friends, Isaiah Austin can get through anything and everything.
No matter how his life plays out, Austin will always be a shining star. Austin had a great career at Baylor, and I am deeply saddened that he cannot showcase his talents with the best of the best.
I want to wish Isaiah Austin all of the best in his course of action to treat Marfan syndrome, and I hope he can begin to play some casual basketball in the very near future.