Double Plane-Crash Survivor Austin Hatch Fulfills a Basketball Dream

Michigan head coach John Beilein congratulates guard Austin Hatch after he made a free throw basket in the second half of an NCAA college basketball exhibition game against Wayne State at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 10, 2014.PlayTony Ding/AP Photo
WATCH Double Plane Crash Survivor Looks to Basketball for Healing

It was just a simple free throw in a 43-point blowout.

One point.

But when University of Michigan basketball player Austin Hatch sunk his free throw Monday against Wayne State, the crowd exploded and Hatch’s teammates congratulated him.

One point? No, this meant so much more. Hatch jogged to head coach John Beilein and hugged him, a transcendent moment for a player who has endured years of sadness and hardship.

Hatch, 20, has survived two plane crashes. The first, in 2003, killed his mother and two siblings. Eight years later, a second crash, this time killing his father and stepmother.

Hatch verbally committed to the University of Michigan, his father’s alma mater, shortly before the 2011 tragedy. The basketball standout had averaged 23 points and nine rebounds per game at Canterbury High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The second crash left Hatch with physical and emotional anguish, two months in a coma with a brain injury, fractured ribs and a punctured lung, the pain of losing so much, so soon. He had to relearn how to eat, breathe and walk.

Eventually, Hatch moved to Los Angeles to live with his uncle and finish high school. He resumed his basketball career at Loyola High School last season, saying he felt “blessed” to continue playing.

"The emotional pain is never going to subside," Hatch said at the time. "Over time, the way I cope with my loss is going to change."

Hatch returned to the court in January as a high school senior, sinking his first shot attempt, a 3-pointer.

Michigan guard Austin Hatch makes a free throw in the second half of an NCAA college basketball exhibition game against Wayne State at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 10, 2014.Tony Ding/AP Photo
Michigan guard Austin Hatch makes a free throw in the second half of an NCAA college basketball exhibition game against Wayne State at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 10, 2014.

With Michigan honoring Hatch’s scholarship, he joined the Wolverines for the 2014-15 season. The freshman guard checked into Monday’s exhibition game with 1:41 remaining in the second half and was sent to the line with 12 seconds remaining.

He missed the first free throw.

He didn’t miss the second.

Beilein subbed Hatch out of the game after his free throw, allowing Hatch to soak in the moment. Hatch has dreamed about playing at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, wearing maize and blue, for a long, long time.

The personal hardships haven’t deterred Hatch’s basketball dreams.

“Since my childhood days, you know, when I was just a little kid playing in the driveway, envisioning myself counting down the clock, 5 seconds left in the game … 3, 2, 1 … and I shoot it and win the game,” he told reporters after Monday’s game. “Obviously, it didn’t win the game tonight, but after all that I’ve been through, it was a pretty special moment for a lot of people.”