By: Connor Lenahan
Isaiah Austin was a center for Baylor’s basketball team for the past two seasons. While I don’t claim to be an expert on Big 12 basketball, I followed enough to know that Austin was a huge talent. It was just last night that I was discussing him with my friends Ryan Patrick and TJ Murray. With the 2014 NBA Draft coming up in just a few days we knew that Austin would be selected to play somewhere. This was a lock.
Only it wasn’t.
I was not aware that genetic testing was a part of the pre-draft screening for the NBA Draft until today. The reason I now have this knowledge is sad. Austin was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a condition effecting the connective tissues in his body, most notably his cardiac system. As Deadspin reported this morning, “basically, if Austin’s heart experienced the rigors of an NBA season, he could die.”
Austin was already blind in one eye stemming from an injury in middle school. He was able to play through this to become a top recruit and a potential first round pick in the NBA. The guy had fought through enough already to deserve and earn his chance to play in the league. To have his dream shattered four days before the draft is devastating. He will never play competitive basketball again.
While this is a blessing in as much that Austin’s life was almost assuredly saved by the diagnosis, there’s no doubt that it’s still a large grade disappointment to be so prepared, so close, only to have it stolen away.
I had seen an idea on Twitter early this morning regarding the situation that I supported immediately. The concept was for some NBA team to hire Austin in some capacity that would allow him to be a part of the NBA as much as he could while not playing. This has to happen. As someone who will never play a minute of competitive basketball while loving the game I can speak that being close to the court and a team is incredibly and otherworldly helpful in living. My connection with the Boston University men’s basketball team has been one of the greatest things to happen to me. It’s made me happier and healthier over the past year and directly impacted my ability to get back to walking last fall. There’s a spot out there for Austin to help some how, some way. It will be mutually beneficial for everyone involved.
He might not get his name called this Thursday, but he might get a phone call in a few days that changes his life for the better. Let’s make this happen. Let’s make a blessing out of a tragedy.
Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.