Days Before NBA Draft, a Devastating Diagnosis

Isaiah Austin has Marfan syndrome, can no longer play basketball
By Shelley Hazen,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2014 11:11 AM CDT
Days Before NBA Draft, a Devastating Diagnosis
Baylor center Isaiah Austin shoots during the second half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

A routine physical delivered career-ending news for Isaiah Austin, a former Baylor Bears star who was expected to be drafted to the NBA late in the first round Thursday. After the EKG test at the NBA combine came back with abnormal results, additional genetic tests revealed that the 20-year-old center has Marfan syndrome, ESPN reports. The genetic condition can affect the heart and has been known to kill athletes mid-game. "They told me that my arteries in my heart are enlarged and that if I overwork myself and push too hard that my heart could rupture," Austin says. The advice? Stop playing basketball … now. Austin left Baylor University after his sophomore year to declare for the draft, the AP reports.

At 7-foot-1, Austin had potential as a draft pick thanks to his shooting skills; he started 72 of 73 games with the Bears. But that’s not nearly as important as his health, says Baylor coach Scott Drew: "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." Drew, along with friends, family, Austin's high school coaches, and his mother (who had to drive through the night from Kansas to Dallas), came together to deliver the unexpected news to Austin in person. Austin already overcame partial blindness to play basketball; he's used a prosthetic right eye after an injury was aggravated during a middle school game. "I would love to thank EVERYONE who has reached out to me," he tweeted yesterday. "Toughest days of my life. But not the last! Life goes on. GOD IS STILL GREAT!" (Read more Baylor University stories.)

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