Isaiah Austin is making the best of life after basketball
The last six months have been a whirlwind for Austin, but he’s keeping things in the right perspective.
Draped in all black, relaxing on the set of Huffington Post Live in New York, Isaiah Austin was as comfortable as he’s been in some time. It’s been a hectic six months since Austin’s life changed, but things have started to calm down.
After a successful stint at Baylor, his NBA career went down the drain after being diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. A half a year removed from the end of his dream, Austin is back at Baylor. He’s finishing his business degree and working as a graduate assistant for the men’s basketball program. The Bears are one of the hottest teams in the country at 9-1.
The Arlington native is also traveling the country to promote a program called “Higher America”, which gives out the Higher Achievement award to eight recipients nationwide for their hard work on their field or court of choice and in their community. Austin still has a job offer from NBA commissioner Adam Silver following his graduation, though he doesn’t know what it will entail.
While basketball has given Austin plenty, he’s still willing to go to bat for the rights of college athletes. He doesn’t want to start an argument. He’s just setting the record straight.
“I would say yes,” Austin said when asked if college players should be paid. “We put in so many hours and the NCAA and our schools make millions of dollars from us and we don’t see any of it. It’s kind of like child labor. The NCAA uses us.”
Reform in college athletics was one of the biggest stories of 2014. From a judge ruling against the NCAA in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit to Shabazz Napier’s unforgettable comments about hunger while leading UConn to the national championship, the perspective seems to be changing. Austin is thankful for that.
“They sell our jerseys in the bookstore for $60 and they sell out every week,” Austin said. “If one player has a big game, they put his number on the jersey and start selling that. If another has a big game, then they’ll put that number on the jersey. It’s really kind of like theft.”
The 7-foot-1, 225-pound Austin averaged 11.2 points, 3.1 blocks and 5.5 rebounds per game for Baylor last season. He said he’s limited only to some minor lifting and occasional jogging following his diagnosis with Marfan Syndrome and hasn’t tried to make another run at the NBA because of he didn’t want to his little brother or sister see him collapse.
Austin still watches NBA games when he’s not assisting Baylor during the season. He misses the sport but still enjoys it as much as ever. He’s been on a countrywide tour since before and after his college season. He’s chasing a dream of being a professional coach. Austin has even been featured in NBA 2K15.
And he’s never forgotten his battle with his syndrome during his new life. He was honored that the NBA and Silver brought him to the NBA Draft in June. Austin is living his dream lavishly and has been afforded the opportunities that not every former college star in his situation would have had.
He’s still awaiting that job offer from Silver when he graduates from Baylor, but until then, he’s found a new sense of motivation. Austin is proud to be inspiring others off the court, and motivating his band of Baylor brothers from the sidelines.
“It was crazy, I had felt like I failed, but at the same time I know I didn’t,” Austin said when he got diagnosed. “It was out of my control and that’s what really changed my mindset. I worked my butt off, all the blood, sweat and tears weren’t for nothing. I had to uplift myself and uplift others around me.”