The recruitment of Isaiah Austin to Baylor was a milestone for the Bears: the highest-ever rated recruit for Baylor basketball. As a top player out of high school, and a solid performer at Baylor, he was looking at being drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. Then, days before he was to travel to New York for draft day, he got a positive diagnosis for Marfan syndrome. He would never play competitive basketball again.
Austin writes of his love of basketball, or, better said, his life of basketball, in Dream Again: A Story of Faith, Courage, and the Tenacity to Overcome. I was aware of his story in broad strokes, as a Baylor fan. A friend at work whose son played with Isaiah in high school told me what a great kid he was. He was of course a big story at Baylor, and won the hearts of Baylor fans with his play (and distinctive glasses). We loved hearing him tell his story of learning to play while blind in one eye, and not letting the opposition know it!
Dream Again is deeply personal. He writes with a sense of opening up his heart and letting the reader into his private thoughts. I especially enjoyed reading about his parents' faith. Their faith in God and their faith in their son worked together to give Isaiah a solid foundation. When he was losing his vision, and ultimately his sight in one eye, Isaiah's mother encouraged him. "She told me that I had two choices with my vision impairment: I could quit basketball or I could work to overcome my limited vision. 'Isaiah,' she said, 'you only have two choices here: you can make this your excuse . . . or you can make it your story.'"
Make it his story he did. ESPN did a feature on him, raising his exposure and giving him a platform to inspire many. Then with the Marfan diagnosis, his mother's advice was even more relevant. Now it wasn't about learning to play the game he loves differently, it was about learning to live without playing the game at all. He has remained positive, and says he "learned that God's plan is always about helping people find ways to dream again."
Isaiah is young. He's got a lot of life to live. But his story is worth telling now. I have been impressed with him watching him on the court and in the press. I was impressed with his kindness when I ran into him with my kids at the mall (I was trying not to be obnoxious. . . . It must be tough being recognized to easily. . . .). Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin, who wrote the book's forward, was impressed: "I tried to encourage him through that time [after the Marfan diagnosis], but in true Isaiah form, we found that he was too busy encouraging us. Even with his lifelong dream crashing down around him, Isaiah was focused on others." Austin's coauthor, seasoned writer Matt Litton, was impressed: "his heart is full of more joy, passion, and genuine faith than any young person I've ever met." You'll be impressed. Let Isaiah inspire you to dream again!
Read about Isaiah's foundation here: http://www.isaiahaustinfoundation.org
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!