LOS ANGELES (AP) — Late in basketball practice at Loyola High School this week, Austin Hatch slipped around a 7-foot teammate and hit an up-and-under shot with all the grace and savvy you would expect from a Michigan-bound swingman.
“The celebration caused us to miss about five minutes of practice,” coach Jamal Adams said, still beaming at the memory.
Basketball is gradually coming back to Hatch, a 19-year-old straight-A student who spent the past two years re-learning how to breathe, eat, walk and live after surviving a plane crash for the second time in his life.
“The emotional pain is never going to subside,” Hatch said Wednesday. “Over time, the way I cope with my loss is going to change.”
In June 2011, just 10 days after verbally committing to play for the Wolverines, his father and stepmother were killed in a crash in Charlevoix, that left him in a coma for roughly eight weeks with a traumatic brain injury.
Incredibly, the Fort Wayne, Ind., native had lived through another fatal plane crash eight years earlier, losing his mother, brother and sister in that tragedy.
Although Hatch realizes he’ll never be the same person or the same player, he is determined to thrive in his family’s memory. He signed a national letter of intent last week with Michigan, and coach John Beilein has vowed Hatch will be welcome in the program in any role he can play.
“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.”
Hatch spoke publicly Wednesday for the first time since the second crash, talking clearly and confidently about the next steps in what’s likely to be a lifelong recovery.