One of the more inspiring stories in college basketball is undergoing a transition.
Michigan sophomore Austin Hatch, a scholarship player who has survived two plane crashes and lost every immediate member of his family due to those tragedies, will make the move from basketball player to undergraduate assistant for John Beilein’s team.
Michigan announced the move on Monday. Hatch will still remain on scholarship, but it’s a medical scholarship going forward. Hatch has been determined to define his life by a number of things; basketball just happens to be one of them.
And now that chapter, from an on-court perspective, is closing.
“Basketball has always been a huge part of my life; however, it is what I play, not who I am,” Hatch said in Michigan’s press release. “It was a goal of mine to return to the game that I love so much and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to play for Michigan. After all that I have been through, it was a dream come true for me to put on a Michigan jersey and get into a game at Crisler Center.”
The move comes in advance of a big season ahead for Michigan. The Wolverines get Caris LeVert back and will undoubtedly be a preseason top 20 team in a very loaded Big Ten in 2015-16. Last year, Michigan missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
“This is, and has been, a very difficult decision; one that we have been discussing with Austin over the last few months,” Beilein said in a statement. “Together, we made this decision at the end of the season and have been waiting for approval from the Big Ten for his status change. With the request for a medical exemption waiver approved (April 27), we are ready to move forward with the next steps in Austin’s career.”
Beilein also said in so many words that he would continue to honor the promise he made to Hatch by affording him a scholarship throughout his college career. Hatch was a coveted recruit who signed with Michigan just a week before the second plane crash of his life, in 2011, put him in a coma and obviously set him back physically for years.
Michigan only went the medical redshirt route for Hatch once it was cleared by the Big Ten.
“As a student assistant coach, Austin will be allowed to continue to be engaged in our practice and training and to travel with us when it can fit into his academic schedule,” Beilein said. “The only real change will be that he will no longer be on our active roster or allowed to play in games.
Hatch said the move “honors my father, and it is something that I know he would agree with and be proud of me for making.”
Hatch stepped on the court in five games for Michigan last season. He turns 21 in October.