- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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The last time we checked in with 2014 Michigan prospect Austin Hatch, his story was already as inspirational as they come.
In 2003, Hatch survived a plane crash that killed his biological mother and two siblings. In June of 2011, he survived another tragic plane crash, but lost his father and stepmother along the way. He also spent three months in the hospital, thanks to severe brain trauma, a punctured lung and fractured ribs. His doctors had to induce a coma to reduce his brain swelling. The breakthrough in his rehabilitation was his recovered ability to walk up and down stairs. After beating his injuries, and standing back up again, Hatch told the Associated Press: "The most difficult thing is just missing my biological family, because I'm the only one left. I wish there was an instructional manual in how to deal with this kind of loss."
There isn't. There isn't even anything close. That kind of loss is not something anyone -- let alone a 16-year-old kid! -- should ever have to even remotely consider. It's heartbreaking to even consider.
And yet, devastating though it is, Hatch's story continues to be a pure source of inspiration.
In May, he made it clear that despite his tragedy, and despite his physical toil, he was still very much planning on playing basketball for the Michigan Wolverines, thank you very much. He also nodded to John Beilein's help and understanding on his road to recovery.
Now there is more good news. On Monday afternoon, a representative for the Hatch family released the following statement:
Austin Hatch has been conditionally released by his medical team to begin practicing with the Canterbury High School basketball program. The first official practice is today, however, Austin is limited to the types of drills he can participate in at this time. Although everyone is encouraged by the progress he continues to make, Austin and his family ask that you do not approach him for interviews at this time.
Hatch's recovery may still limit him on the court. It may take a long time for him to get back to the player he was before the crash. But he's recovering, and doing so with the support of friends and teammates and basketball itself.
If ever there was a better argument for the solidarity and family that comes with this sport, for the importance of being on a team, I haven't seen it.