Back in 2014, Isaiah Austin almost fulfilled his dream to play in the NBA.
Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that forced him to give up his basketball career.
“My first dream was to play in the NBA. Unfortunately, that was taken away from me, but God placed another dream in my life – to go around and inspire people with my story, just to share my testimony to as many people as possible,” Austin said.
Despite his medical condition, the 23-year-old athlete never gave up hope that one day, he would get another chance to go back to the sport that he loves. And in 2016, he got his wish. He was given the go-signal by his doctors to play again.
“I’ve asked God to bring basketball back into my life somehow, some way. With his gracious hands, he rewarded me with being able to play again,” he shared. “That’s what it means to dream again, just never giving up, always having faith in your God, that he’s gonna have a plan in your life.”
When he received an invitation to play for the Philippines, Austin said he could not turn the opportunity down. “It was such a great opportunity, not only for me but also for my family. I’ve been through a lot in my career and this is like taking a big step for me. I couldn’t be any happier.”
The 7’1” player arrived in the country on Tuesday night and attended practice with Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas on Wednesday.
“Obviously he’s reeling from jet lag. He doesn’t have his legs underneath him but I knew exactly what I was getting when he came here,” head coach Chot Reyes commented on Austin’s first practice with the team. “I like the way he shot the ball during the shooting drills. We all know he can really shoot the ball. The question now is how quickly he can assimilate with our system and with his teammates.”
Austin admitted that he was still sluggish due to jet lag but he was really pleased with his initial interactions with the coaches and his fellow players. “Everybody’s so supportive and positive. This is the type of environment that I like to be around.”
He went on, “They’re all energetic. They’re very, very welcoming today in practice. I don’t know any of these guys but they already accepted me into the family so that’s really all I could ask for.”
Another positive thing that Austin noted is the overwhelming support of Filipino fans. He shared that he’s been getting heartwarming messages from Filipinos across his social media accounts.
“I read an article a while back that FIBA voted them the greatest fans in the world. Who wouldn’t want to play for the greatest fans in the world and be part of the culture that’s all about love and having a big heart?” he said. “That’s something that really means a lot to me. In my life, I like to surround myself with positivity. That’s one of the main things that’s helped me get through all of the obstacles in my life. Just to be here is really heartwarming.”
In return, Austin promises that he will give his all when he plays for the country.
“I’m just going to show them my passion. I’m not too worried about how I play offensively. I know that I can score every once in a while. I know that I’m a great mismatch on the court,” he said. “It’s basketball, (some days) you’re gonna play good, (some days) you’re gonna play bad. But the only thing you can control is your attitude and how hard you play. So I’m gonna play extremely hard. I’m gonna have a great attitude while doing it. I’m not supposed to be here in the first place but I’m here and I’m very thankful.”
Now that he has another chance to dream again, Austin vows to make the most out of it and never take it for granted.
“I think that God had a plan for me my whole life. He put me in this position for a reason. He put this opportunity in front of me for a reason, for me to chase it, for me to give my all for this country and for this team, to try to get the best out of it. That’s exactly what I plan on doing.”