Family tragedy has hit Michigan Wolverines freshman Austin Hatch twice and was in a coma just three years ago following a plane crash that took the life of his father and stepmother according to media reports on Aug. 18. The two-time plane crash survivor, who was critically injured in the most recent crash, made his debut for the University of Michigan men’s basketball team during their four-game exhibition tour in Italy.
Hatch saw three minutes of action in Michigan’s 99-60 victory over Perugia Select Team on Aug. 17. The 6-foot-6 guard didn’t get into the stat column but that hardly detracted from the joy he experienced achieving what doctors said he couldn't.
"As you can imagine it has been a heck of a journey to get here," Hatch told Michigan Athletics after the game. "Playing basketball at the University of Michigan has been my goal since I was a little kid. It was unreal to be here and to have actually played a game. I really feel like I have that game under my belt now and I really feel like a Michigan basketball player."
Hatch is the only surviving member of his immediate family. 11-years ago (2003), the 19-year old survived his first plane crash but lost his mother, 11-year old sister and five-year old brother.
But it is his recovery from the most recent crash in 2011,that has been remarkable. His dad was flying the family between its Indiana home and a Michigan summer house in June 2011 when the small, single-engine plane plummeted nose-first into a garage along a residential street north of Charlevoix Municipal Airport, killing Hatch's father and stepmother and critically injuring him.
Hatch was in a coma and couldn’t open his eyes for two months following the crash. He also suffered several broken bones, a punctured lung and swelling of the brain. The damage came less than two weeks removed from Hatch verbally committing to Michigan.
Yet, head coach John Beilein still honored the scholarship.
Hatch has played in both of Michigan’s exhibition games – Michigan won both games defeating Perugia Select Team (99-60) on Aug. 17, and Vicenza All-Star (93-53) –, and is 0-for-1 from the field in a total of six minutes of action.
Michigan is 52-19 and has shared or won the Big 10 regular season crowns the past two seasons. The Wolverines will be very young this year – with seven freshman on the roster – but the ceiling is relatively high . It is unknown how much playing time Hatch will ultimately see but it is likely he will be the face of the program for the next four years.
Hatch received a great team honor following the Wolverines victory over Perugia Select and that was to lead its "The Victors" chant.
"It was unreal," Hatch said. "To lead the team in the fight song after the game is a big tradition. I learned that early on in the recruiting process and watched U-M sing it a lot on my visits. I always thought to myself, 'I hope someday I am in position to be able to do that.' Just like everything else that happened today, it was just unreal to be able to do that."