We don’t know yet if Isaiah Austin will ultimately become a naturalized Filipino and play for Gilas Pilipinas regularly, but it wouldn’t hurt if we got to know the guy as early as now. (Bounty Sports)
Head coach Chot Reyes: “Yo, [insert name of 7-foot center here] do you want to play for Gilas Pilipinas as a naturalized Filipino? We have snacks and roasted chicken that does not need sauce.”
[Insert name of 7-foot center here]: “Of course I do, where do I sign up and can you send that roasted chicken my way ASAP?”
Okay, that’s probably the weakest hypothetical conversation ever in the history of the universe because first, it might be impossible for coach Chot to utter the word “yo” and second, you don’t need to be a naturalized Filipino to enjoy Chooks-to-Go, the one that backs our Philippine national team. CTG is for everyone come on now.
However, wouldn’t it be nice if the process of naturalizing a towering 7-foot center is as easy as that weak hypothetical conversation right?
The truth of the matter is that it’s never easy to naturalize a player that would reinforce Gilas Pilipinas. That is why if and when the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) ultimately decides to push through with one, that one should be worth all the trouble.
A lot of names get thrown around almost weekly and the talks of finding a new naturalized center for Gilas have intensified over the last couple of months especially with the continued unavailability of Andray Blatche, our current reinforcement.
With the arrival of Isaiah Austin to back up Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas for the upcoming FIBA-Asia Champions Cup, there is brewing excitement over the fact that the former Baylor star might be the one.
Nothing is set in stone yet of course but if and when Austin does become the next naturalized center for Gilas Pilipinas, it doesn’t hurt if we get to know the guy as early as now.
He fits all the criteria set by SBP and Gilas anyway so why not…
HE IS PUSO PERSONIFIED
A lot of fans rejoiced on the potential of Austin as the next naturalized center for Gilas Pilipinas simply because he fits on perhaps the most important cateory set by the Philippine national team.
The Gilas program has won — and lost — a lot of wars on the international arena thanks the undying “Puso” battlecry. And in terms of “Puso” alone, Isaiah has a big one.
The 23-year-old tower of power was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that “affects the body’s connective tissue” according to the Marfan Foundation’s website.
Marfan Syndrome will often take its toll on a person’s heart and that was the case with Austin as his arteries were most affected. If overworked, there was a chance that Isaiah would have his heart enlarged and it could even rupture.
Because of his condition, Austin’s NBA dream didn’t materialize and it appeared that his days playing basketball were practically over.
However, the NBA gave him a rare opportunity during the 2014 Draft and the league selected him as an “honorary pick.”
Austin was welcomed by Commissioner Adam Silver in between the 15th and 16th picks three years ago.
TO SEE IS TO BELIEVE
Aside from Marfan Syndrome, Austin is also fully blind in his right eye.
His vision was compromised after he suffered a baseball accident as an early teen.
It all went down in 2005 when Austin, playing first base, got hit with the baseball after the opposing pitcher faked the pitch and threw in his direction.
The result was a loose retina but it didn’t require surgery. However, three years later, Isaiah’s retina would be completely detached after he attempted a dunk while playing middle school basketball and that was basically it. He was officially blind in his right eye when he was a junior in high school.
He was wearing a prosthetic eye when he played college ball at Baylor.
CLEARED TO PLAY
Almost three years after he was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, Austin was cleared to play competitive basketball again late last year.
He announced the exciting development on his Instagram account on December 1, 2016.
In less than a year, Isaiah has played pro ball in Serbia and China before finally finding his way to the Philippines.
Austin played two seasons for the Baylor Bears in NCAA Division 1, averaging 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 2.4 blocks per game in 73 outings.
As a freshman, he won the NIT title with Baylor. The following year, Austin and the rest of the Bears made it to the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
Austin’s official measurements from the 2014 NBA Draft Combine are 6’11 1/2″ without shoes and 7’0 1/2″ with shoes.
His standing reach is 9’4 1/2″ and he has a 29.5 inch max vertical. Austin also has an insane 7’4″ wingspan and more importantly, Isaiah is only 23 years old.
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