By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Seven-foot-1 Baylor center Isaiah Austin was on the cusp of an NBA career and becoming an inspiration to millions of people as the first to play in the league while partially blind.
Now Austin could potentially be battling for his life. Genetic testing as part of the 2014 NBA Draft revealed that Austin suffers from a career-ending condition called Marfan syndrome, Baylor announced Sunday morning. Marfan syndrome is caused by a genetic mutation that leads to problems in connective tissues throughout the body. According to The Marfan Foundation, about one in 5,000 people have Marfan syndrome. It can cause aortic enlargement, which can be life-threatening.
NBA.com’s draft guru Scott Howard-Cooper had Austin being selected 52nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in his latest mock draft.
“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. “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 addressed his situation on Twitter as did Baylor:
Austin, from Arlington, Texas, located between Dallas and Fort Worth, revealed during his sophomore season that he is blind in his right eye as a result of a detached retina suffered as a teenager.
Austin played two seasons at Baylor before declaring for the 2014 NBA Draft. He played in 73 games (72 starts) and averaged 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 28.9 minutes per game.
He finished his Baylor career tied for second on the school’s all-time blocked shots list with 177, and his 119 blocks as a sophomore led the Big 12 Conference. Baylor went a combined 49-26 during his two-year career, winning the 2013 NIT Championship and advancing to the 2014 NCAA Sweet 16.