With the 2020-2021 Michigan State men’s basketball season over, we will take individual looks at how each Spartan performed over the course of the season.
In our second edition of the series, we break down junior forward Joey Hauser’s first season in East Lansing, what went well and where he has room to grow.
Averages per game: 21.5 minutes, 9.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.2 blocks, 47.5% fields goal percentage, 34.0% three point percentage, 72.1% free throw percentage
Hauser came in with the reputation of being a very versatile offensive player and, at least in spurts, he showed just that. His long game from beyond the arc was very impressive at times. Through the first eight games he averaged 14 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game and he looked like the top of the rotation player MSU needed him to be. Hauser looked particularly good versus Western Michigan (24 points, 10 rebounds, while hitting six shots on 10 attempts from deep) and against Wisconsin (27 points, seven rebounds) but soon after that the struggles began.
As a rebounder, Hauser especially early in the season, showed plenty of promise. He has pretty good hands and knows how to position himself. Once he has the ball, his ball-handling enables him to bring the ball up the court as well, something that could come in handy especially against aggressive opponents. Here and there, he has also flashed the elite passing ability Tom Izzo talked about a lot before the season.
There is no sugarcoating it — Joey Hauser’s season was a huge disappointment overall. He came in with a lot of hype, Izzo talked him up all summer long, and Michigan State needed him to be a premier player for this team to realize its potential. Yet after a pretty good start to his season, it all went off the rails for Hauser who seemed to lose confidence once his struggles began. His defense was an absolute nightmare throughout the entire season, at times even making him unplayable against certain matchups. The main problem is that Hauser isn’t strong enough to handle bigger post players on the block, yet also lacks the foot speed to keep up with speedier opponents. His limited athleticism also prevented him from scaring anyone as a rim protector or making up for his other shortcomings. Hauser was eventually replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore forward Malik Hall, a suggestion Hauser actually made to Izzo himself.
All in all, Hauser just played soft throughout most of the season on both ends of the floor. While he brings a lot of different skills to the table, his inability to play tough and physical makes most of them go to waste. On offense he hung around the perimeter too much (maybe by design?), launched way too many outside jumpers despite having a sophisticated post-game and on defense he just looked completely overwhelmed most of the time.
Hauser has to take a long look in the mirror and figure out how he wants to be remembered at Michigan State. If he doesn’t adjust he will be known as a talented offensive player who wasn’t able to make the most out of his opportunities because his defensive shortcomings kept him out for long stretches. If he toughens up, works on his defense and sees it as a priority to play on the block, then he should find plenty of playing time. Either way though, the coaching staff will have to help him find his confidence again, he truly looked shaken at the end of the year. However, Hauser certainly has the talent and skillset to turn things around as a senior.
OVERALL SEASON GRADE