By ALYSSA NEWCOMB
Two years after Austin Hatch survived the second plane crash of his young life, the high school student said he is on the rebound and eager to play college basketball next year at the University of Michigan.
"Basketball has given me something to shoot for. It has been my goal. When I woke up from the coma, I told people, 'I am going to play basketball again,'" Hatch said today at a news conference.
Shortly before the 2011 crash that killed his father and stepmother in Charlevoix, Mich., Hatch had verbally committed to the University of Michigan. This week he signed a letter of intent.
In 2003, Hatch and his father survived a plane crash that killed his mother and two siblings. His father, Dr. Stephen Hatch, was the pilot in both crashes.
"Signing with the University of Michigan has been a goal of mine basically since I woke up from a coma," Hatch said. "Last week, it was kind of surreal to see my name on that dotted line and actually sign that letter."
Before the crash, Hatch was a basketball standout at Canterbury High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he averaged 23 points and nine rebounds per game.
After suffering a brain injury, he said his road to becoming the "multidimensional" player he once was has been a challenge, but one he has been working to overcome.
"I still need to work on my fundamentals a bit more," he said. "What was once second nature ... as a result of a brain injury, I now have to think about stuff."
A few months ago, Hatch moved to Los Angeles to live with his uncle, Michael Hatch, and finish school at Loyola High School.
Hatch said his nephew has been practicing with the school's varsity basketball team, but likely won't be ready to play in the home opener on Dec. 2.
"His recovery is off the charts," Hatch said of his nephew. "I can tell you, without a doubt, what has happened to Austin is very unique and how he has responded to it, as a family, we think is nothing short of remarkable."
Aside from the physical trauma, Hatch said he has emotional scars from surviving two plane crashes that he doesn't believe will ever subside.
He recalled the pain of losing his father, whom he called his "best friend, coach, mentor, No. 1 fan," who taught him how to have "courage in the midst of hardship."
"Those traits that I acquired from him are what saved my life," he said.
Before the crash, Hatch had decided to attened the University of Michigan, his father's alma mater. The duo chose the school, he said, because of its strong academic programs.
John Beilein, University of Michigan men's basketball head coach, said he expects Hatch will be an asset to the team and has given him a four year scholarship.
"Austin is a consummate, high IQ player, who is an excellent shooter," Beilein said. "We are excited to have him back and playing basketball again. We expect Austin to be an important part of Michigan basketball during all of his years at Michigan."
Hatch said he knows he has obstacles to overcome, but he's eager to work hard and be ready to help the University of Michigan win games when he joins the roster next year.
"I have been put to the ultimate test of resilience, faith, courage, work ethic, things of that nature," he said. "I'm not sure there is anyone who has been through and survived two plane crashes. I think God had his hand on me."