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For The First Time, The NBA As A Whole Makes A Draft Choice

Growing up in Fresno, CA and Arlington, TX, Isaiah Austin dreamed of hearing his named called from the podium during the NBA draft. His dream came true Thursday night, even though his dream of becoming an NBA will not.

After a stand-out high school career at Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington, Austin starred for Baylor University, being named to the 2013 All-Big 12 third team and the Big 12 All-Rookie team, recording 15 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 assists and 2 steals in the NIT championship game in which Baylor defeated Iowa 74–54. In 35 games during his freshman season, he averaged 13.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.7 blocks in 29.9 minutes per game.

Austin declared himself eligible for the NBA draft after his freshman year, but then suffered a shoulder injury and ended up returning to Baylor for his sophomore year. In his sophomore season, he was named to the 2014 Big 12 All-Defensive team, averaging 11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 3.1 blocks in 28.0 minutes per game, in 38 games. But Austin’s dream of becoming an NBA star would soon come crashing down.

Austin, who is blind in his right eye from an injury he sustained in middle school, had kept the injury a secret, known only to his teammates and close friends, declared himself eligible for the 2014 NBA Draft. But, days before the draft, Austin was alerted that something more may be wrong when an EKG revealed that he had an irregular heartbeat. In the days leading up to the draft, he learned that the tests for Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue, had come back positive. The tissue affected holds all the body’s cells, organs and tissue together, also playing an important role in helping the body grow and develop properly.

But in an unprecedented move, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver paused between the 15th and 16th picks in the leagues annual player draft to recognize Austin and announce that he was in fact being selected by THE LEAGUE with a first round pick, an honor never before bestowed upon any player by any professional American sports league. In the end, though, Austin has benefited from leaving Baylor early and undergoing the intense medical scrutiny of league doctors. The diagnosis may have ended Austin’s basketball days, but it also may have saved his life.

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