With a terrific run to the Sweet 16 and a stellar sophomore season in the books, Baylor center Isaiah Austin announced on Monday he will enter the 2014 NBA Draft, via the official RantSports Google Plus page. The 7-foot-1 Arlington, Texas native elevated his game to a new level during the 2014 NCAA Tournament with numbers that were better than his career and season averages. However, the impact he made that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is what makes him an extremely underrated NBA Draft prospect.
In both of Baylor’s dominant tournament wins over Nebraska and Creighton, Austin was an intimidating force in the paint, blocking three shots and altering at least a dozen more. Those are the types of can’t-be-taught aspects of Austin’s game that will make folks forget he’s blind in his right eye. As a late first-round prospect, he’s likely to end up with a contender in this year’s draft, which is the case in our latest mock draft.
Also in anticipation of his announcement, Austin answered a few questions to further cement his draft status:
Q: Why did you wait so many years after the injury to let the public know you’re blind in your right eye?
A: I waited so long because I was scared of what others would think. I wasn’t ready to let people know about my situation yet. Now that it is known I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I now know that it was one of the greatest decisions of my life to share my story with everyone. It is a blessing to see how many people I have inspired from my injury and I want to continue to show others not to be afraid of what people think.
Q: How does it feel for so many people to say you inspired them after that announcement?
A: It’s definitely a pleasant surprise. For such a long time I kept my injury as a secret out of fear of what others would think. I had no idea how something so traumatic could be used as a source of inspiration and strength for others. It is an amazing feeling to be able to be a provide a positive message that originally stemmed from a negative experience and use it to fuel myself and others. With any major setback comes the opportunity of a comeback and that is what I wanted to prove to myself and my fans.
Q: Why did you return to Baylor for your sophomore season?
A: I wasn’t mentally ready and I felt that I needed another year to improve on my intangibles, a goal that I have definitely accomplished. In order to compete at the professional level, I wanted to know that I had mentally reached a maturity level that would help me transition.
Q: What do you think you gained from this second year of college?
A: I feel I have gained a better perspective on life, and I have learned the importance of dedicating myself to the process of becoming the best player and person I can be. I know that there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going. Someday you will look back on your life and realize that everything worthwhile you’ve ever accomplished initially challenged you and that is what I gained from my second year of college.
Q: Specifically, what did the run to the Sweet 16 teach you about the game?
A: It taught me that the game requires constant focus, patience and attention. If you lose sight of what it takes to win your season could be over instantly.
Q: For which NBA team would you most like to play, and why?
A: I would like to play for any team that feels I’m worth giving an opportunity to prove what I can do at the top level. That will be the team that I will be ready to dedicate myself to being the best I can be in the areas that they feel I will best serve the team. My dream is to play in the NBA and whichever team believes in me, that is the team I want to play for and flourish with.
Q: Your mom is mentioned in pretty much every story about you from the past several years. Describe the effect she has had on your basketball career, especially after the incident?
A: My mother is my rock; we have been through thick and thin together and I am in awe of her every day. She’s taught me so many things about life and always kept me positive even in the toughest of situations. I can’t do anything but thank her for her love and for pushing me to be great even when the odds were against me. Without her, I would not be where I am today; she is my everything.