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What Austin Hatch has been through is truly staggering to contemplate. Can you imagine being 16 years old and surviving a plane crash that killed your father and stepmother? Now imagine that's the second plane crash you survived in your young life -- and the first, eight years earlier, killed your mother and two siblings. I know, I can't imagine it either.
So of course I can't imagine how Hatch made it through those horrific experiences with not only his body but also his spirit intact. See, the second crash occurred less than two weeks after Hatch, a talented basketball player, committed to the Michigan Wolverines for the Class of 2013. Alive but severely hurt (Hatch sustained serious brain and rib injuries as well as a punctured lung), no one knew for sure if he would ever play basketball again.
Never mind basketball -- no one knew for sure if he would ever do a lot of things again. After 10 months of grueling rehabilitation, doctors were thrilled that Hatch could finally walk up and down stairs.
But thanks to compassionate Wolverines coach John Beilein, Hatch's physical limitations won't keep him off the team.
"I'm still going on a full basketball scholarship. I'll still be on the team and all of that and go to practice and everything. But I just don't know if I'll be quite as good as I was before. But I still have over a year until then, so a lot can happen."
"He is one of the best guys that I know, he's unbelievable," Hatch says of Beilien. "He says you're not going to be as good at basketball -- not yet. It takes time. He understands my road to recovery is not going to be an easy one. It's going to take a lot of work. He's still supportive of me and everything. It's pretty cool."
Pretty cool, indeed. Pretty amazing is more like it. Thank god for big-hearted people like John Beilein who know that "being good" at basketball is only part of what makes a player an asset to the team.
Can you imagine experiencing so much tragedy at such a young age?
Image via Ryan Fung/Flickr