After devastating diagnosis, NBA hopeful paves new path

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(PIX11) -- A promising young athlete whose world was turned upside down with a devastating diagnosis is now paving a new path, helping others to achieve their dreams.

From the moment he first touched a basketball, Isaiah Austin said he wanted to be an NBA star. And he was well on his way.

He went from being an award-winning college player at Baylor University to being buzzed about as a a first-round draft pick in the NBA.

Then came life-changing news from his doctor.

Austin was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. If he continued to play basketball, Austin could have dropped dead on the court.

“It really hit me when I came home that night at my aunt’s house and looked into my mom’s face and I knew -- exactly then and there -- what it was,” he said.

It’s the kind of news that would be crushing for anyone, especially a 20-year-old who has loved this game his entire life.

But Isaiah doesn’t see it as the end. Rather, he sees it as an opportunity to carve a new path and help others achieve their dreams.

“I’m still figuring it out on the way,” he said.

“Life hits you with different hurdles every day and I know right now I want to be a servant leader, that’s what god has put in my life and in my heart so each and everyday at Baylor, instead of playing on the court, I’m wiping up sweat now. I’m giving guys water. I’m just doing what I can to humble myself.”

Part of his plan now is becoming a spokesman for the new Haier Achievement Award, a financial grant for student athletes who also perform well in the classroom and in their communities.

Through the scholarship, eight students will receive $2,000 awards for college.

To nominate a deserving young person for the grant, click here. All submissions must be in by March 1.