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Austin Hatch defies the odds, participates in first game with Michigan

The story of Austin Hatch has been a long and heartbreaking journey. On Sunday, the journey came full circle: Hatch played in his first game with Michigan.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

No one thought he could get here except himself and John Beilein.

Now, on top of celebrating their first victory --99-60 against Perugia Select Team-- of their trip to Italy on Sunday. The Michigan basketball team can also celebrate the triumph of true freshman Austin Hatch participating in his first game at Michigan.

A feat that no one was quite sure would ever happen.

In 2011, Hatch was involved in a plane crash that took the life of his father and step mother. In 2003, Hatch survived another plane crash that took the life of his mother and two siblings. With a fractured skull, two punctured lungs and broken ribs, it was unclear if Hatch would ever play the game he loved.

Fast forward to Rome in 2014, the unknown became known. Hatch participated in his first game with the Wolverines.

"It was a special moment. Austin even led us in the fight song after the game was over," Michigan head basketball coach John Beilein said. "It's something he has worked very hard for. It was a great moment for our team; however, it was truly special for Austin and his grandfather, Jim, who was here in the stands."

For Hatch, the long and winding road of uncertainty lead him to his final destination. A dream was realized, even if it were only a few minutes long.

"As you can imagine it has been a heck of a journey to get here," Hatch said. "Playing basketball at the University of Michigan has been my goal since I was a little kid. It was unreal to be here and to have actually played a game. I really feel like I have that game under my belt now and I really feel like a Michigan basketball player."

It's clear Beilein and Hatch have a special relationship. He even asked the NCAA for a special waiver to remain in contact with his recruit while he recovered in the hospital. After the first game, it was only fair to have Beilein select Hatch to lead his team in the best tradition after a Wolverine victory.

A rousing chorus of "The Victors."

"It was unreal. To lead the team in the fight song after the game is a big tradition," Hatch said. "I learned that early on in the recruiting process and watched U-M sing it a lot on my visits. I always thought to myself, 'I hope someday I am in position to be able to do that.' Just like everything else that happened today, it was just unreal to be able to do that."

The fight and struggles that Hatch has been through at such an early age is unreal, seeing something positive happen to him is only fair and only right. Beilein and the entire Michigan basketball program can only hope that the unreal becomes a little more real for Hatch after today.