Coach Chot not sweating Austin’s medical history

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Isaiah Austin talks with coach Chot Reyes after practice. Photo courtesy of Joaqui Flores

MANILA, Philippines – National team head coach Chot Reyes is trusting the doctors who cleared Isaiah Austin to return to basketball, ahead of the American player’s first stint for the Philippines in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup later this month in China.

Austin, who arrived in Manila to great fanfare last Tuesday, is the former Baylor University center whose chance to enter the NBA in 2014 was derailed by Marfan syndrome. 

Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissues. In Austin’s case, it affected his arteries, and he had to quit the sport lest his heart ruptures. It was not until late 2016 that he received medical clearance to play basketball again.

“He’s been cleared with his US doctors,” Reyes said when asked about Austin’s health on Wednesday night. “So who are we to argue against that?”

Austin practiced for the first time with the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas team on Wednesday, participating in drills and scrimmages despite his jet lag. Afterward, Austin stressed that he was “all cleared” for basketball again — something that Reyes affirmed.

“I interviewed him extensively before he came here,” said the coach. 

“He has no problem with his aorta, with his heart, blood… everything is normal, it’s regular,” Reyes added. “That’s why he was given a clearance.”

“His doctor is the foremost specialist in Marfan syndrome in the world,” he pointed out. “We have to go by that.”

Austin will serve as one of Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas’ two imports in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, along with University of the Philippines recruit Bright Akhuetie.

Reyes and the rest of the coaching staff are evaluating Austin as a potential naturalized player for Gilas Pilipinas.

“We still have to look at the tournament. It’s not only a skill or a fit issue. It’s also everything – attitude, how well he’s able to get along with his teammates,” said Reyes. “There are a lot of things you can only find out when you’re out of the country. That’s why this tournament is very important to us.”

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