Former Baylor center Isaiah Austin has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Marfan syndrome that will end his basketball career.
Austin learned of his condition after he underwent genetic testing in preparation for Thursday’s NBA draft. The 7-1 Austin was projected to be a potential second-round pick after declaring for the draft following his sophomore season at Baylor.
“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 Sunday. “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 (student) coach in our program.”
Lisa Green broke the news to her son Saturday night before a support group she had gathered in the Metroplex that included Drew and his coaching staff.
“Isaiah had just gotten some great news from a couple of NBA teams that said they were planning to draft him,” Green said. “He walked into the room giving high-fives. Then he looked at me and I told him the results (of the Marfan syndrome tests) were positive. He got into a corner and slid into a ball, and cried like a baby. My husband picked him up and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.”
Since the news broke to the public Sunday morning, Austin and his family have been flooded by supportive phone calls, texts and tweets.
Austin couldn’t be reached for comment. But in an ESPN television interview Sunday, he said, “The draft is four days away, and I had a dream that my name was going to be called. For all my supporters, I’m sorry they won’t be able to see me play in the NBA. But it’s not the end, it’s only the beginning.”
According to the Marfan Foundation, Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue, which holds organs and cells in place. Connective tissue plays an important role in helping the body grow and develop properly.
Features of the disorder are most often found in the heart, blood vessels, bones, joints and eyes. The lungs, skin and nervous system may also be affected. Some Marfan syndrome features such as aortic enlargement can be life threatening.
“His heart is breaking because playing in the NBA has been his dream, but it’s not in God’s plan,” Green said. “The fact that we still have him is the biggest blessing we can ask for.”
Though Austin won’t be drafted Thursday, Green said NBA commissioner Adam Silver has invited him to the event in New York as his guest.
Green said Austin could become a spokesman for the awareness of Marfan syndrome, and he could work at basketball camps for young players. Green said she’s not certain if Austin will return to Baylor’s campus for classes, but he will at least earn his degree on-line.
Earlier this year, Austin revealed that he is blind in his right eye as a result of a detached retina suffered in middle school.
In 73 games for Baylor, Austin averaged 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks. He finished his Baylor career tied for second on the school’s career blocked shots list with 177, and his 119 blocks as a sophomore led the Big 12.
Baylor went a combined 49-26 during his two-year career, winning the 2013 NIT championship and advancing to the 2014 NCAA Sweet 16.
BEAR FACT: Baylor redshirt freshman forward Chad Rykhoek won’t play for the team any longer due to medical reasons. Rykhoek didn’t play for the Bears in his two seasons on campus due to injuries.