updated 08/22/2014 AT 12:00 PM ET
•originally published 08/22/2014 AT 2:45 PM ET
Though he lost his parents and both siblings in two separate plane crashes that he survived, Austin Hatch refuses to feel sorry for himself.
“The time you could spend wondering ‘Why me?’ is the time you could have spent working your tail off to get better,” he said in an emotional Today show interview Friday.
Hatch, 19, played his first game for the University of Michigan basketball team Sunday in a pre-season tournament in Italy.
It was a miraculous achievement for a former high school basketball star who feared he’d never set foot on a court again after suffering near-fatal injuries in the second crash in 2011.
“If I would have thought of this situation before it happened to me, I wouldn’t have thought I could make it either,” he told Today correspondent Maria Shriver.
“It really comes down to character,” he said. “Just being able to persevere in the midst of tragedy, in the midst of adversity.”
He said those survival skills are something he learned from his parents, especially his late father, Stephen, who died in the 2011 crash with his second wife.
“I can hear their voices in my head,” he said. “When I face a difficult situation I can hear my dad guiding me. That’s really all I strived to do my whole life … to honor him with my life.”
Hatch said it was his close relationship with his father that helped him survive the 2003 crash that killed his mom and siblings.
“I’m what kept him going, and he’s definitely what kept me going,” said Hatch. “He was my best friend, my basketball coach, my mentor – everything.”
Hatch keeps his father’s Bible, as well as his photo, beside his bed.
I have “very deep faith,” he said. “Surviving two airplane crashes, either luck is on your side or there’s some sort of divine intervention in your life.”