ST. LOUIS (USBWA) – Michigan freshman
Austin Hatch, who survived two plane crashes, lost
family in both of them and was in a coma for two months with a traumatic
brain injury following one crash, has been selected to receive the
U.S. Basketball Writers Association's Most Courageous Award
The plane crashes occurred in the span of eight years, the first
of which claimed the lives of his mother, older sister and younger
brother; the second of which took his father and stepmother.
Neither of those tragedies, however, is what makes Hatch courageous.
It's because of how he's lived his life since, fighting to overcome
both his own physical hardships and emotional challenges, and also
embracing his new opportunities.
Rather than be angry at what he's lost, Hatch instead prefers
to celebrate what he's been given – a chance to honor his parents
by becoming the man they dreamed he would be. Fiercely determined
and impossibly positive, Hatch believes he is only beginning to
write the story of his life and that the tragedies, while a part
of his tale, will one day merely be a footnote.
Hatch was only eight when the first crash happened. He and his
father, Dr. Stephen Hatch, were the lone survivors – Austin surviving
largely because his father tossed him away from the wreckage. The
two forged a new life together afterward, deciding to celebrate
their late family members rather than mourn them.
Eventually Stephen Hatch remarried and together with his new
wife, Kim, formed a new family, merging Kim's three children with
Austin. In June, 2011 the family gathered to celebrate Austin's
commitment to the University of Michigan.
Nine days later, came the second crash. Both Stephen and Kim
Hatch were killed. Austin survived, but with a traumatic brain injury
so severe doctors wondered if he would make it. He spent two months
in a coma and many more in intensive rehab, essentially relearning
But every challenge and "can't" that the doctors presented, Austin
answered with a "can." By the time he returned to his Fort Wayne,
Ind., home in October, he was not just walking; he was climbing
the stairs to his second-floor bedroom.
And this past fall, just three years after the crash, he enrolled
at the University of Michigan, where Coach John Beilein honored
his scholarship. In December he scored his first collegiate point,
a free throw against Coppin State.
The lingering effects of the brain injury have slowed Austin's
basketball progress some and he's unsure if he ever will be the
player he was, but he's not worried. He has bigger goals and new
dreams now – to share his story in the hopes that it will help and
inspire others and to live the life his parents envisioned for him.
Stephen Hatch challenged Austin to be an uncommon man. He is
already well on his way.
Hatch will receive the most courageous award at the USBWA's annual
awards function at this year's NCAA Final Four, on Monday, April
6, at a luncheon starting at 12:30 p.m. at the JW Marriott Hotel
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in
1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers.
With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential
organizations in college basketball. It has selected a women's All-America
team since the 1996-97 season. For more information on the USBWA
and its award programs, contact executive director Joe Mitch at
Most Courageous Award