WACO, Texas — Isaiah Austin came to the stark realization as a teenager that he’d never again see out of his right eye.
Multiple operations couldn’t fix the detached retina and save his vision after a previous injury was aggravated doing a routine dunk before a middle school game.
“It was real hard. ... I’m losing sight, like I’m half-blind now,” recalled Austin. Back then, he was already towering over other players and had big basketball dreams.
That is when Austin’s mother told him something that he didn’t fully understand at the time, but now means so much to the 7-foot-1 Baylor sophomore and NBA prospect.
“You can make it your excuse, or you can make it your story,” his mother told him. “You can touch lives or you can be a quitter.”
While he didn’t take into consideration then what that actually meant, and figured his mother was just trying to help him get through a tough time, Austin started working on his game again. He became a top national recruit in high school.
Austin didn’t tell Baylor coach Scott Drew about being blind in one eye until after committing to the school, and then practiced a few weeks with his new teammates for his 2012-13 season before telling them. Then last month, in a piece aired as part of an ESPN broadcast of a Bears game, Austin revealed publicly the secret of his prosthetic eye.
“There were some people that questioned his toughness. After the story, nobody’s questioning his toughness,” Drew said. “It allows him to be a role model now for anyone that has poor eyesight, or any other issue.”
Austin said the revelation has allowed him to be himself all the time and show people he’s more than a basketball player. He is now willing to share his story with anyone.