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Baylor 7-Footer Has NBA Dream Ended by Rare Genetic Condition

Isaiah Austin of Baylor University dunks in the second half against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in San Antonio, Texas, on March 21, 2014. Photographer: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Isaiah Austin of Baylor University dunks in the second half against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in San Antonio, Texas, on March 21, 2014. Photographer: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Baylor University center Isaiah Austin has been diagnosed with a career-ending medical condition during genetic testing conducted in preparation for the National Basketball Association draft.

The 7-foot-1 Austin won’t be able to play in the NBA because of Marfan syndrome, which is caused by a genetic mutation that affects connective tissue in the body and can cause enlargement of the aorta. The potentially life-threatening condition affects about one in 5,000 people, according to The Marfan Foundation.

“This is devastating news,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “His health is the most important thing, and while it’s extremely sad that he won’t be able to play in the NBA, our hope is that he’ll return to Baylor to complete his degree and serve as a coach in our program.”

Austin, a finance major, led the Big 12 Conference with 119 blocked shots as a sophomore last season while averaging 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds over his two years at Baylor. He’s the nephew of nine-year NBA veteran Isaac Austin and had been projected as a possible second-round draft pick.

Complications

Most people with Marfan syndrome are born with the disorder, though symptoms may not surface until later, according to the Marfan Foundation. The most dangerous complications of the syndrome involve the heart and blood vessels, as faulty connective tissue can weaken the aorta, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disorder can also affect the eyes, causing lens dislocations or retinal tears. While there is no cure for Marfan syndrome, treatments including drugs and surgery can help manage the disorder.

Austin revealed last season that he’s blind in his right eye as a result of a detached retina suffered as a teenager. The Baylor athletic department said he was seeking to become the first partially blind player on an NBA roster.

“This game, it is a platform for anyone and everyone who comes in contact with it,” Austin wrote on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. “I was blessed enough to play it on one of the highest levels despite the odds that were stacked against me. Blessed is all I can say. Thankful is all I can be.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net Dex McLuskey, Jay Beberman

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