Plenty of college basketball fans already know the basics behind the scary and still fairly unbelievable Austin Hatch story. The young man's already lived a life worthy of a novel, despite being just 19. A survivor of two plane crashes that happened eight years apart, Hatch is the only surviving member of his immediate family; the two crashes killed his mother, father, stepmother and siblings.
Hatch's comeback from the second crash, in 2011, has been remarkable. He was in a coma, and slowly but surely made his way back. It took him two months to even fully open his eyes after the crash. There were so many broken bones, a punctured lung and even swelling of his brain. The damage came less than two weeks removed from Hatch verbally committing to Michigan.
John Beilein honored the scholarship anyway.
Michigan's currently taking an exhibition tour in Italy. On Sunday, Hatch walked over to the scorer's table and checked in. It was his first in a Michigan uniform. Another big step in what's becoming the definitive bittersweet story in college athletics.
"It was a special moment," Michigan coach John Beilin said. "Austin even led us in the fight song after the game was over. It's something he has worked very hard for. It was a great moment for our team; however, it was truly special for Austin and his grandfather, Jim, who was here in the stands."
Hatch vowed last November he would play basketball again, and he has. He got on the court for the first time in a real game last January, for his high school, Loyola (Calif.).
"As you can imagine it has been a heck of a journey to get here," Hatch said. "Playing basketball at the University of Michigan has been my goal since I was a little kid. It was unreal to be here and to have actually played a game. I really feel like I have that game under my belt now and I really feel like a Michigan basketball player."
Michigan should be pretty good this year; who knows how big of a role on the court Hatch will have over the course of his career with the Maize and Blue. Away from it, he'll be a face for the program, for survivors and a reason to endure.
A great moment happened after Michigan's game as well: the team asked Hatch to lead its "The Victors" chant.
"It was unreal," Hatch said. "To lead the team in the fight song after the game is a big tradition. I learned that early on in the recruiting process and watched U-M sing it a lot on my visits. I always thought to myself, 'I hope someday I am in position to be able to do that.' Just like everything else that happened today, it was just unreal to be able to do that."