April 7, 2014 — As basketball fans wait anxiously to know the victor of tonight’s men's NCAA matchup, Loyola High School of Los Angeles is already celebrating the hoop dreams of one of its own.
Austin Hatch is a 6-foot-6 senior basketball player with plans to play at the University of Michigan this coming fall. His road to the basketball court has been nothing short of miraculous.
In 2003, Hatch survived a plane crash that killed his mother, 11-year-old sister and five-year-old brother. Eight years later, he survived another crash that claimed his father and stepmother. Hatch, who suffered head injuries, multiple fractures and a punctured lung, was in a coma for eight weeks. He had committed to play basketball for the University of Michigan Wolverines just 10 days before the accident. Despite the severity of his injuries, Michigan Coach John Beilein agreed to honor Hatch’s scholarship regardless of his condition, sticking with Hatch throughout his recovery.
A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Hatch relocated to Southern California after the 2011 accident to live with his uncle. After spending the past two years regaining his ability to breathe, eat and walk, Hatch returned to playing basketball at Loyola High School last September. Hatch, a straight-A student, hit a three-point shot in his first game in nearly three years in January, spurring his teammates to storm the court in joyous congratulations.
"I feel like God has his hand on me," Hatch said at a news conference. "I feel like there's a plan for my life. … When you’re inches, millimeters away from death, you really understand. You look at that from a different lens. Every day, the opportunities I have with my family, my friends, all the guys here at Loyola, it’s just a great group of people out here.”
"He hit a three and our bench erupted," Loyola Coach Jamal Adams told the Los Angeles Times. "It was unbelievable what that kid has gone through and how hard he's worked. That kid has taught me you can come back from anything, that nothing is impossible. It was a spiritual moment." [Sources: Associated Press, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, ESPN]