Austin Hatch‘s one year in Los Angeles was mostly spent grieving, after he survived a plane crash that killed his father and stepmother. Eight years earlier, he had survived a separate crash during which his mother, brother and sister died.
So when Hatch, now a student assistant at Michigan, returned to Los Angeles this week with the Wolverines, it was a time for reflection. The Wolverines will play Texas A&M at the Staples Center in a Sweet 16 matchup on Thursday night.
“It was only a year of my life, but it was a big year of my life,” Hatch said of his time in Los Angeles. “It was the year that prepared me for Michigan. Great people out here. I was very, very blessed to be a part of it.”
The second crash left Hatch in a coma for weeks, and he ended up playing just one game with the Michigan basketball team. But his role with the team keeps him enmeshed in the community that embraced him in the aftermath of tragedy.
He has a support system in Los Angeles, too. An uncle and several family members live in the area, as does his coach at Loyola High School, Jamal Adams. They’ll be in the stands supporting Hatch when Michigan challenge the Aggies.
“In hindsight, I’m really glad I was here,” Hatch said. “It broadened my horizons a little bit. I’m from the Midwest. I’m from Fort Wayne, a small town. Now I’m in Ann Arbor, which is relatively small in comparison to LA. It was good to come out here and experience a different way of life.”
Michigan’s game against Texas A&M will start Thursday at 7:37 p.m. ET on TBS.