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Michigan State Men’s Basketball 2021-2022 Season Review: Joey Hauser

The sharp-shooting forward has decided to return to Michigan State for one more year.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Michigan State vs Davidson
Joey Hauser had the best game of his Spartan career against Davidson.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

As we continue to review the 2021-2022 season, we examine how each returning Spartan performed individually during the recent basketball season, where he is at this point in his MSU career and what we might be able to expect in 2022-2023.

Many thought Joey Hauser may have ended his Michigan State career after he went through senior day festivities toward the end of last season, but he ultimately decided to use his extra year of eligibility to return to East Lansing, which was granted to all 2020-2021 winter athletes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hauser hopes to build on a solid finish to what otherwise was an up-and-down season for him.

The numbers

35 games (29 starts), 22.2 minutes, 7.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 44.6% fields goals, 40.8% three-pointers, 86.2% free throws

The development

Hauser basically played the same amount of minutes this past season as he did during the 2020-2021 season (22.2 compared to 21.5), yet his scoring numbers took quite a hit as he averaged 2.4 points per game less than he did during his redshirt junior season. He started more games for the Spartans this past season, but got much worse on two-point shots, only converting them at a 48.8 percent clip compared to 61.2 percent the year before. He greatly improved on his three point shooting (40.8 percent up from 34 percent), however, and on free throws as well (86.2 percent up from 72.1). He also limited his turnover numbers (1.2 per game compared to 1.9 in 2020-2021).

Overall, though, it has to be noted that Hauser once again failed to significantly improve on the strong numbers he had during his freshman year at Marquette that earned him a spot on the all-freshman team for the Big East in 2019. He roughly gets the same amount of points, rebounds and assists now, showing a rather limited statistical development even if you factor in the uptick in competition.

Overall performance

Hauser was the starter at the power forward position for most of the year, and he certainly had his moments over the course of the season. None of those moments were brighter than his scoring explosion against Davidson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Hauser finished the game with 27 points, 10 points above his previous season high, and converted nine of his 12 shots in a narrow one-point win for the Spartans. That game in itself was of tremendous value to MSU’s season, and easily the highlight of Hauser’s Spartan career so far.

The game before and after his outburst against Davidson, though, show the other side of the coin for Hauser. Inconsistency has plagued him, just like with many other Spartans last season. Hauser went scoreless against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament and was held to five points against Duke in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32, while being thoroughly outplayed by future NBA lottery pick Paolo Banchero. Basically all season long, Hauser alternated solid performances with rough outings despite getting fairly consistent minutes and scoring opportunities. Mixed in this past season was another memorable moment for Hauser, when he hit a game-winner with time expiring against Minnesota at the Breslin Center.

Hauser struggled particularly at the start of the season with his shooting, only converting on 31.4 percent of his field goals over the course of six games in November. He quickly found his stroke, though, and became the dangerous outside shooter MSU fans have grown accustomed to. He didn’t take as many three-pointers as he did the previous year, but still filled the role of a very strong floor spacer throughout the season. His post-up opportunities were limited as he started to become more of a true stretch-four.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Tom Izzo was excited about Joey Hauser never giving up during some tough times.

Defensively, Hauser once again struggled to compete with big and athletic players, even if he did a much better job defending on the perimeter against quicker guys. Even if he got switched on the big centers within the Big Ten, Hauser’s compete level never wavered and he did all he could to prevent baskets. His positioning for rebounds was traditionally strong, he limited offensive mistakes and once again was a very dangerous spot-up shooter, even more dangerous than in the past. Hauser actually finished the year spectacularly by shooting 47.4 percent from deep over his last 13 games.

State of his game

Hauser already arrived at Michigan State with the reputation of being a deadeye shooter, and he continues to cement that assessment. Shooting above 40 percent from downtown not only shows his great touch, it also indicates a lot more confidence from Joey as he is finally feeling a bit more comfortable in Green and White. The criticism of not performing up to the high expectations people had for him (and he himself probably, too), paired with the pandemic, got to him and likely impacted him mentally for quite some time.

Considering his extremely strong shooting finish last year, Hauser seems to have left at least some of these doubts behind. That doesn’t mean that he all of a sudden is a very aggressive or confident player. Yet, Hauser knows his role and his obvious limitations, so you rarely see him perform outside of his own skin. He won’t drive on players he can’t drive, he won’t post up guys he can’t post up and he will not shoot if he’s not open enough. What helps his overall low mistake numbers maybe also hinders him a little bit in the long run.

The biggest problem for Hauser is his lack of size and the fact that he basically plays below the rim all the time due to low level athleticism. He doesn’t have a great wingspan to challenge shots or finish over tall defenders, and he also lacks the brawn to constantly overpower smaller guys in the post. These things are pushing him further and further away from the basket, and he took considerably less shots in the paint last year compared to his redshirt junior year. Defensively, of course, his physical limitations are an issue as well.

Syndication: Lansing State Journal
Joey Hauser’s shooting was spectacular for the Spartans late in the 2021-2022 season.
Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

While preventing him from providing a bigger impact, Hauser still does plenty of things well and can have a large role in certain games, as shown against Davidson. His offensive prowess at times wavers when he faces better competition and it’s not surprising he had his best games against High Point, Western Michigan and Davidson (teams at a clear disadvantage athletically to MSU).

Hauser actually scored only 6.7 points per game against Big Ten opponents compared to 8.0 points per game against anybody else. He has a decent post-up game in which he doesn’t get enough lift, and he can drive to the basket here or there, yet in the end, it is his shooting that will always make the difference for him. Hauser is a solid passer, too, yet he never came close to the early praise he received from Tom Izzo before suiting up for Michigan State.

Outlook for 2022-2023

After two years playing at Michigan State, a redshirt year and a freshman season at Marquette, there is a pretty distinct picture of what type of player Hauser is and isn’t. Unfortunately for him, that picture hasn’t really changed much over the course of the last few years. While he is an extremely dangerous shooter for a big man and possesses a tremendously advanced basketball IQ, his lack of size, athleticism and strength have prevented him from becoming more than a decent stretch-four at the college level. Many expected more from Hauser when he committed to play for MSU, and he’s faced quite a bit of criticism for his lack of development, yet nobody can ever complain about him not competing.

But even with more experience, it is unlikely that Hauser all of sudden gets more physical, stronger or quicker, which unfortunately will always prevent him from becoming more than a role player. He is most likely penciled in as the starting power forward for the upcoming year, which wouldn’t be as troublesome if MSU had more long athletes around him. As of now, Hauser’s lack of athleticism could be seen through the magnifying glass with no Marcus Bingham Jr. available to protect his backside.

Izzo has raved about Hauser’s competitiveness, and his awareness. With another summer under his belt, these things should still be there. If Hauser can continue his red-hot shooting streak from the end of last season, then he will once again be a strong floor-spacer for the Spartans. His physical limitations will most likely prevent him from being more, though.

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