Days before the NBA Draft, former Baylor center Isaiah Austin revealed his playing career was over after being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. This led to the most touching moment of draft night, when NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that the league had selected Austin.
Austin — who was ceremonially drafted by the NBA at the Draft back in June — tells us Silver already hooked him up with a part-time gig with the league’s NBA Cares program … and promised full-time work once he gets his degree.
The 7-foot-1 center was a projected second round pick, but heads back to Waco to finish up classes in August. In two seasons with Baylor, he averaged 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. In February, Austin shared his inspirational story, playing blind in his right eye since he was a child. Despite the heartbreaking news, Austin has continued to inspire others by selling T-shirts on his website in an effort to raise money for Marfan syndrome research.
He has also helped spread awareness of the inherited disorder that 1 in 5,000 people have. According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, visitors to marfan.org and donations to the foundation have spiked since June. The Marfan Foundation’s annual conference set had a record turnout, which included Austin.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.