There may be bigger, more crucial free throws this college basketball season, but none will be more emotional than the one Austin Hatch sank Monday night.
Hatch, the 20-year-old survivor of two plane crashes in which most of immediate family died, stepped to the line with 12 seconds left in Michigan’s 43-point blowout of Wayne State and, after missing his first free throw, made the second as the crowd erupted and his coach and teammates congratulated him.
The first plane crash, when Hatch was 8, claimed the lives of his mother and two siblings. The second crash eight years later left Hatch in a coma for two months and took the lives of his father and stepmother. He recovered from physical injuries that included a brain injury, broken ribs and a punctured lung.
“Since my childhood days, you know, when I was just a little kid playing in the driveway, envisioning myself counting down the clock, 5 seconds left in the game … 3, 2, 1 … and I shoot it and win the game,” he told reporters after the game. “Obviously, it didn’t win the game tonight, but after all that I’ve been through, it was a pretty special moment for a lot of people.”
His emotional journey was complete when Coach John Beilein sent him into the game with about 5 minutes left.
On Monday, a few of Hatch’s hometown friends and his father’s college roommate, were at the game. Someday, Hatch hopes that these moments will be special solely for athletic reasons.
“By the time my career comes to an end here, I don’t want to be known as a cool story,” he said (via MLive.com). Obviously, what happened to me is kind of unique, but that’s what happened — that’s not who I am. Obviously it’s a big part of my life, but I’m about moving forward and making the most of my experience here.”