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WACO Baylor center Isaiah Austin has become an inspiration in Waco.

Not only has he helped the Bears reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament, but the 7'-1' center from Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington has a handicap.

He's blind in his right eye.

'I remember when I first found out about it, there were two thoughts: One was concern that as other coaches and teams found out about it, would they game-plan? Would they do things to make it tougher on him?' said Baylor head coach Scott Drew. 'The second thing is; What a great role model and example for all other young kids.'

Drew admits he didn't know that Austin was playing with only one eye when he recruited him.

Austin said he tore his retina in middle school, two years after he was hit in the eye with a baseball. Today, Austin doesn't seem to view his blindness as a problem at all.

'At the beginning it was. I'm so used to it now, I don't even notice that I'm blind in that eye, unless something severe happens, like a pass hits me in the face or something like that,' Austin said.

'The depth perception was hard to get over. It actually took me like a good year to actually get a little bit used to it. I still struggle a little with it now at times in different arenas,' Austin said.

That's why he always gets to a new arena early so that his vision can adjust. Peripheral vision will always be an issue for Austin, but he said that's where his teammates help out.

'I've learned to keep my head on a swivel, looking left and right and making sure my teammates always talk to me, where ever they are on the court, so I can hear them and see where the ball is, and make sure everybody on the team yells 'shot' when the shot goes up, so I can find my man and box him out and then find the ball,' Austin said.

'It's really been encouraging to see how many people he has helped impact,' Drew said. 'I'm really happy that that story has come out.'

Limited vision or not, Austin is projected to become a first-round NBA draft pick.

E-mail griba@wfaa.com

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