By Kevin Luo
We use the term “miracle” a lot in sports. We use it when a team makes an incredible comeback or there’s an amazing finish in a game. We use it when a team makes a huge upset. We use it for many other sporting events and stories. This weekend, Sportscenter shined the spotlight on a true miracle in the world of sports.
On Dec. 22, 2014, Austin Hatch scored his first point as a Michigan Wolverine when he was fouled on a jump shot against Coppin State and made one of three free throws. He exited the court that day to a roaring applause and a big hug from his coach, John Beilein. The basket he scored was an incredible sight to see, but his journey to this point was far more incredible as it’s a miracle in itself that Hatch is even alive today.
Hatch grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind. as an average, young kid. His life took a crazy turn when he was 8 years old, when he boarded a flight with his parents and siblings. The plane was flown by his father, who was a pilot. Everything appeared to be going well until the plane suffered from equipment failure, hit a utility pole and crashed. His father was able to save Austin from the burning plane but was unable to save anyone else. His mother, brother and sister all died in the crash.
Although he experienced such a tragic event at a young age, he was able to push on due to a strong support system. The bond between him and his father grew stronger when his father remarried, adding a support system from his new stepmother and three new siblings. He quickly bonded with his new family, and his stepmother eventually adopted him.
With this strong support system, Hatch was able to become a standout basketball player at Canterbury High. One night, Hatch scored 30 points and had 16 rebounds with Beilein watching from the stands. Beilein had seen all he needed to see and quickly offered Hatch a scholarship to Michigan — an achievement Hatch didn’t hesitate in accepting. He had Maize and Blue in his blood as his father was a huge fan and his biological mother was a Michigan alumna.
Hatch was ready to live out his dream of playing at Michigan. Then, tragedy struck again. He was flying again with his father and stepmother when they had to make an emergency landing due to bad weather. The plane crashed. He was in a medically induced coma for six weeks. There were questions of whether he’d ever wake up again or what he would be able to do if he awoke. He awoke to the worst news he could’ve expected: his father and stepmother were dead.
His father’s dream was always to watch his son play basketball at Michigan, and even when he had such limited body movement, he was still determined to make his father’s dream a reality. Day by day, he went through intensive physical therapy and saw himself improving. He went through rehab for over a year at home with his older sister as his guardian.
For his senior season, he went to go live with his uncle in California who enrolled him in Loyola High School so he could be a part of coach Jamal Adams’s program and work with trainer Rasheed Hazzard, who helped rehab Kobe Bryant the year before. When Hatch and his coach thought he was game ready, he got into a game and made his first shot.
After graduating from Loyola, he was ready for Ann Arbor. Beilein was more than happy to honor Hatch’s scholarship. With the help of an incredible support system, Hatch had reached where he always wanted to be. That free throw against Coppin State was the true moment that showed his dream had come true. Hatch’s story is a true miracle that inspired and will continue to inspire so many people.