Six months ago, Isaiah Austin was considered a late first-round prospect in the NBA Draft. The lanky 7-footer had just enjoyed a NCAA Tournament run with Baylor to the Sweet Sixteen, ultimately succumbing to Wisconsin. He had high hopes for what he thought was a budding NBA career.
Life after basketball was far from Austin's mind as he drove up to his aunt's house just five days before the 2014 NBA Draft in June. He entered to find his entire family waiting for him, all faces somber.
"Everybody was there," Austin told host Marc Lamont Hill in a HuffPost Live interview Thursday. "My coaching staff, my pastors, my girlfriend, my little brother, my sister. My whole family was there. The one face I noticed right when I walked through the door was my mom. Just pink and drenched with tears."
Austin found out that day his basketball career was over, as doctors diagnosed him with Marfan Syndrome, a disease that affects the body's connective tissue. Austin's aorta is the main reason he cannot play; if he exerts himself too much, his heart could rupture.
Austin had been alerted that he could have Marfan Syndrome during the NBA Combine, when doctors found an irregular heartbeat while he was hooked up to an EKG machine. He had to submit blood for tests, and was allowed to continue the draft process, working out for teams in the days leading up the draft.
"In the back of my mind, the whole time, I'm thinking I'm fine," Austin said. "I had forgot about all the extra testing. I'm playing."
The NBA honored him by "drafting him" on draft night, complete with a hat and a handshake from NBA commissioner Adam Silver. (Players of the video game NBA 2K15 can also sign Austin as a free agent.)
Austin says he hopes to get into coaching, and runs the Isaiah Austin foundation in the meantime.
"A part of my life was taken away from me," Austin said, "not my whole life,"
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