The road to joining the Michigan Wolverines was a difficult, complicated one, but for freshman forward Austin Hatch, being a member of the team in Ann Arbor is a special opportunity, writes Geoff Robinson of The Detroit News.
In 2011, Hatch committed to the Wolverines as a member of the 2013 recruiting class before a devastating plane crash in June 2011 killed his father and stepmother, and left the teenager severely injured. After an eight-week coma due to traumatic brain injuries, Hatch had to relearn how to walk and talk -- and play basketball.
Hatch always dreamed of playing under coach John Beilein and the Wolverines, and even after the injury, the school has kept its word. The freshman is only participating in "limited fashion" currently as the team prepares for a competitive season, but Hatch is simply grateful to be part of the program after everything that's happened:
"Coach is a great man. He told me when I was in a wheelchair, ‘Austin, I can’t wait for you to come here and play for me. I’m going to be honored to have you as part of our program.'"
Hatch no longer has the same athletic gifts that made him such a popular recruit in his high school days, but he's been welcomed with open arms in Ann Arbor all the same. Whether he gets any game action or not -- Beilein says "probably" but wouldn't offer guarantees -- Hatch is now firmly a part of the team.
"(They embrace me) like a brother," Hatch said. "They really treat me as part of their family. I’m honored to be here and have an opportunity to represent Michigan. It’s a dream come true."
The 2011 plane crash was the second that Hatch had survived. In 2003, his mother, sister and brother died in another plane crash, which he survived along with his father. In both crashes, Hatch's father was piloting the plane.
Here's to hoping we see some of Hatch in a Big Ten contest sometime soon.
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