Isaiah Austin, a former star basketball player at Baylor University, revealed Sunday that he can no longer pursue a pro career in the NBA, after he was diagnosed with a genetic disorder, Marfan syndrome. The disease is physically characterized by very great height, with disproportionately long limbs — and internally it is associated with various cardiac problems. Doctors discovered his condition while he was preparing for this week's NBA draft.
"They said I wouldn't be able to play basketball anymore at a competitive level," an emotional Austin told ESPN. "They found the gene in my blood sample. 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. The draft is four days away, and I had a dream that my name was going to be called."
Austin had already overcome great difficulties to play basketball, having been blinded in his right eye in an accident as a teenager. Had he been drafted into the NBA, as had been expected, he would have been the first person ever to play pro basketball while partially blind.
In Baylor's official statement, head coach Scott Drew extended the university's support to Austin: "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." --Eric Kleefeld