A 19-year-old student in Los Angeles who miraculously survived two plane crashes that killed all of his immediate family has just signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Michigan.
Eight years ago, Austin Hatch of Fort Wayne, Ind., survived the first plane crash, which killed his mother, brother and sister. In June 2011, just days after verbally committing to play basketball for the Michigan Wolverines, he survived a second plane crash in Charlevoix, Mich., which killed his father and stepmother and left him in a coma for eight weeks, the Associated Press reported.
"The emotional pain is never going to subside," Hatch said Wednesday, in his first public comments since the second crash. "Over time, the way I cope with my loss is going to change."
As the AP reports, Hatch bounced back from his coma, moved from Indiana to Southern California to live with his uncle and guardian, Michael Hatch, and worked on improving his basketball skills.
"Basketball is just a game, and I understand that I have bigger goals in life," Hatch said. "My academics come first. Basketball has always been second for me, but basketball has given me something to shoot for."
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Austin Hatch, a 6-foot-6 forward, began attending using the rehabilitation facilities and attending classes at Loyola High School near downtown Los Angeles, where he established a new network of friends.
"When you're inches, millimeters away from death, you really understand," he said. "You look at that from a different lens. Every day, the opportunities I have with my family, my friends, all the guys here at Loyola, it's just a great group of people out here."
According to the AP, Hatch, who averaged 23.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, signed a national letter of intent to play basketball for the University of Michigan.
"Signing with the University of Michigan has been a goal of mine since I basically woke up from my coma," Hatch said. "Last week, it was kind of surreal to actually see my name on that dotted line. I can't tell you how blessed I feel to be in that position."
As the AP reports, Hatch verbally committed to Michigan back in 2011, and Wolverines Coach John Beilein and assistant coach Jeff Meyer kept in close contact with him while he recovered from the second plane crash and worked to regain his basketball skills.
"It's exciting as can be that he's going to have this opportunity to play organized basketball again," Beilein said. "We just have to see how all this develops. ... He makes us appreciate what we have a whole lot more, because this young man is just terrific to talk to, to speak with - to sort of put our lives in perspective sometimes."
"I still need to work on my fundamentals," Hatch said. "What was once second nature, as a result of the brain injury, I have to think about stuff on the court that I really shouldn't have to think about. That's just going to take time. I've tried to practice things the right way. I've been working very hard since I could work at anything when I got out of the hospital bed.
"I have been put to the ultimate test of resilience, faith, courage, work ethic, things of that nature," Hatch said, according to Yahoo! Sports. "I'm not sure there is anyone who has been through and survived two plane crashes. I think God had his hand on me."