Former Baylor University basketball standout Isaiah Austin played himself into a likely first-round spot in Thursday’s NBA draft. But a routine EKG test during his NBA physical showed something was amiss.
A blood test revealed Austin has Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissues that hold the body’s cells and organs together. It affects just one in 5,000 people.
“They said I wouldn’t be able to play basketball anymore at a competitive level,” Austin, 20, told ESPN’s Holly Rowe on Sunday. “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.” Rowe called the “gut-wrenching” interview the hardest of her career, as Austin could hardly speak through his tears.
But while the professed Christian couldn’t speak, he could type. Social media became Austin’s platform for more than just news as he tweeted messages to both express his pain and give glory to God. “God I put ALL my faith and ALL my trust into you!” read his first tweet on Sunday, a day after his diagnosis. Other posts gave references to Jeremiah 29:11 and 2 Corinthians 5:7. “Toughest days of my life. But not the last! Life goes on. GOD IS STILL GREAT!” he tweeted.
Austin became known the basketball world for his perseverance after he revealed a childhood injury left him with a detached retina and eventually a glass right eye. He became a standout player despite damaged depth perception.
Admirers have poured our their support in the face of this new challenge. Kentucky draft prospect Julius Randle, a star at Austin’s cross-town Christian high school rival, sent him encouragement. “Praying for you man!! I know God will take care of you,” Randle tweeted. Holly Rowe reports NBA commissioner Adam Silver will honor Austin’s invitation to the draft.
Austin described himself as “always strong” in his faith. He told the Waco Tribune he chose the Baptist university because of its Christian atmosphere. The entire Baylor squad has been on a spiritual journey of sorts since February, coach Scott Drew told the Baptist Standard. Five players publicly declared faith in Christ and were baptized, and the team rebounded from 2-8 in Big 12 play to make it all the way to the Sweet 16.
What lies ahead for Austin isn’t clear. “Woke up today blessed,” he tweeted today. “Never forget, GOD IS GREAT!” By declaring for the NBA draft before graduating, he might not be able to continue his athletic scholarship like nothing happened. But Drew said Baylor wants him back.
“Our hope is that he'll return to Baylor to complete his degree and serve as a coach in our program," Drew said.