Plane-Crash Survivor Makes Long-Awaited Return to H.S. Basketball
Austin Hatch, a survivor of two plane crashes, made his return to the high school basketball court on Wednesday evening, hitting a three-pointer in the fourth quarter for Los Angeles-based Loyola High School, per the Los Angeles Times.
"He hit a three and our bench erupted," Loyola coach Jamal Adams said to the Times. "It was unbelievable what that kid has gone through and how hard he's worked. That kid has taught me you can come back from anything, that nothing is impossible. It was a spiritual moment."
On Sept. 1, 2003, a single-prop plane piloted by Hatch's father crashed, killing the boy's mother, sister, and brother. Eight years later, in June 2011, Hatch was the lone survivor in another single-engine plane crash which claimed the lives of his father and step-mother.
In the second crash, Hatch suffered a serious head injury, a punctured lung, and fractures to his ribs and collarbone, per The Journal Gazette. He was placed in a medically induced coma for roughly two months to control the swelling in his brain.
Less than two weeks before the second crash, Hatch verbally committed to play basketball at the University of Michigan as part of its 2013 recruiting class. He received a special waiver from the Indiana High School Athletic Association in 2012 to stay an extra year in high school, reclassifying as a recruit in the 2014 class, per the Detroit Free Press. Michigan head coach John Beilein told the paper that he'd honor Hatch's scholarship whenever he arrived on campus.
Hatch signed his letter of intent with Michigan back in mid-November.
"We are excited to have him back and playing basketball again," Beilein said in a statement. "We expect Austin to be an important part of Michigan Basketball during all of his years at Michigan."
"Signing with the University of Michigan has been a goal of mine basically since I woke up from my coma," Hatch said, per UMHoops.com. "Last week it was kind of surreal to actually see my name on the dotted line and to actually become an official part of the Michigan basketball program. "
Hatch told the site that he hadn't yet talked with Beilein about his specific role. He said that the coach told him, "Austin, whatever you're able to do. Whether that's being a manager, be a practice player, whatever, you're on scholarship here no matter what."
And thus, there was just one last thing for Hatch to do to complete his basketball comeback—make his way back to live game action. On Wednesday, for the first time in two-and-a-half years, he did exactly that, knocking down the first shot he attempted.
His teammates rushed the court after he sunk this three-pointer, drawing a technical foul.
"It was the best technical foul I've ever been a part of," his coach told the Times.
After the game, Hatch tweeted the following:
As I said after the game, my three was pretty cool, but, more importantly, we're now 14-0 😎-- Austin Hatch (@ahatch33) January 9, 2014
Media objectivity be damned, it's hard not to be impressed with Hatch's determination, drive, and spirit.
Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.