When Isaiah Austin, the prospective first-round selection in the 2014 NBA draft, revealed he had been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, he thrust a little known but deadly condition into the national spotlight. Suddenly, the connective tissue disorder was grabbing headlines and people from all walks of life learned about the signs of the condition.
For many, like 14-year-old Owen Gray, of Cypress, Texas, this was life-saving as he was then able to get the diagnosis and treatment he needed to avoid tragedy.
“We learned about the signs of Marfan syndrome because of Isaiah,” said Owen’s father, Rod Gray. “When we saw NBA Commissioner Adam Silver make Isaiah a ceremonial pick, because he could no longer play competitive ball, it struck me that my son had a lot of the features of Marfan. He’s tall and lanky, with long arms and legs, just like Isaiah, and has had eye issues. I immediately brought Owen to the doctor and the diagnosis was made. I am so grateful to Isaiah because he saved my son’s life.”
Owen and Rod will be in Springfield March 11 for the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championships taking place March 6-11. Owen, who formerly played on the Houston Christian Youth Association team and was the runner up in his last year playing in the spring of 2014, had to give up basketball, just like Isaiah, but will be in the city to root on his former teammates and raise awareness of Marfan syndrome.
"I could make Marfan syndrome my excuse or my purpose, so I have chosen to raise awareness and money for Marfan syndrome to save lives and inspire others and make it my purpose in life,” Owen Gray said. “I wanted to attend this year’s tournament to support my friends and coaches with HCYA. They have been a huge support for me so I wanted to support them and help them in any way possible."
The 25th Annual National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championship is expected to generate about 7,500 hotel room nights and $3.65 million in visitor spending to the local economy. More than 325 teams from nearly 30 states are participating in the tournament being played at more than 26 gymnasiums throughout the Springfield area.
Planners expect 8,000 people, including about 3,200 players, to be in the city for the event.
The event concludes with championship play on March 11 at Hammons Student Center on the Missouri State University campus. Spectators are welcome. All games are free admission.
For more information about Marfan Syndrome, visit www.marfan.org/.
To learn more about this event and others brought to the city by the Springfield Sports Commission and the Convention & Visitors Bureau, call 417-881-5300 or 800-678-8767. The nonprofit organizations are dedicated to boosting the local economy through increases in overnight travel to Springfield.