Michigan Recruit and Plane Crash Survivor Austin Hatch Gains Extra Year of Eligibility

By Dave Daniels

The greatest and worst days of Austin Hatch’s life happened less than two weeks apart.

On June 24th, a plane piloted by his father crashed and killed his parents and one of his two dogs; Austin suffered a sever brain injury, a punctured lung and rib injuries.

Less than 2 weeks before, Hatch had committed to the University of Michigan Basketball Class of 2013. Hatch has completed 10 months of rehab and had a key test at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where he had to walk up and down stairs.

For Hatch, the physical difficulties aren’t nearly as tough as the emotional ones: “the most difficult thing is just missing my biological family, because I’m the only one left,” he said, in a post-crash slower speech pattern but still sharp. “I wish there was an instructional manual in how to deal with this kind of loss.”

Michigan Coach John Beliein has been a big support for Justin over the past few months and has handled all the events with class and patience. (An NCAA waiver allows Beilein to talk to Hatch more frequently than other recruits.)

“He is one of the best guys that I know, he’s unbelievable,” Hatch said. “He says you’re not going to be as good at basketball — not yet. It takes time. He understands my road to recovery is not going to be an easy one. It’s going to take a lot of work. He’s still supportive of me and everything. It’s pretty cool. I’m still going on a full basketball scholarship. I’ll still be on the team and all of that and go to practice and everything. But I just don’t know if I’ll be quite as good as I was before. But I still have over a year until then, so a lot can happen.”

As a sophomore, Austin Hatch averaged over 23 points a game on 45% from the 3-point line.

Hatch has remarkable faith and positivity given the intensity of the events he has experienced in his life, and his inspiring words make a far better ending to this article than anything I could possibly writer.

“But just because tragic stuff happened to me, my life’s not over. I’ve got all kinds of positive things working in my favor. I’m going to Michigan, I’ve got a great family, great parents, and I get to go to a great (high) school. If you just focus on the negative things, you shouldn’t let that outweigh the positive things in your life.”

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