Remember Isaiah Austin? The former Baylor Bears standout was considered a top prospect entering the 2014 NBA Draft, but in the week leading up to the draft, he was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a disease affecting the arteries in his heart. Thus, he was deemed medically incapable of playing in the pros. The NBA ceremoniously selected Austin between the 15th and 16th picks.
You may not have heard much about Austin since then. He was medically cleared to play in Nov. 2016, and in Jan. 2017 he signed a pro contract in Serbia. Since then, he's bounced around several teams in different countries and has put up big numbers.
Now, he's opened up about his experience working through the diagnosis and playing pro overseas. In an interview with Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report, Austin, who's now 24 and dominating in the Chinese National Basketball League (NBL), spoke on his resurgent playing career.
"I'm a complete mismatch on the court," the 7'1" Austin told B/R. "I haven't come across someone in this league who can check me."
Austin is putting up monster stats: 35.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. He sometimes plays 48 minutes in a game, per B/R, and hasn't had any issues with his health.
"I'm in really good shape, which is why it's really hurtful that people won't give me an opportunity," he said. "Even after playing these strenuous minutes and working out each day, I've had no regression in health. I'm just getting healthier."
But teams are still wary of signing him, fearful of what could go wrong—it's a similar situation to that of former Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh. One doctor told B/R Austin has a "very mild" case of Marfan and "is in a gray zone."
Still, taking a chance on on a player in the "gray zone" is a risk. The G-League's Zeke Upshaw died of cardiac issues on the court this March, and teams are trepidatious of history repeating itself.
Though Austin would certainly rather be playing in the NBA, it seems he's maintained a great perspective—very encouraging to hear.
"I'm just happy I can play the game again, because that was the main thing missing from my life," he says. "It was killing me slowly being away. Pursuing a pro career and making a nice amount of money to take care of my family is something I'm very thankful and grateful for."
Read the intriguing full profile here.