Michigan State graduate forward Joey Hauser took to Instagram in a short post to say, “that’s a wrap.”
Hauser has been involved in collegiate basketball since 2018, making this a farewell after six years. The sweet shooting, 6’9” power forward has a complicated backstory and legacy amidst a career full of starts and stops.
Coming out of high school, Hauser missed the majority of his senior season due to injury, and even took the uncommon (for basketball) approach of enrolling early at Marquette in Spring 2018. The injury allowed him to take a medical redshirt for that semester, keeping his then 4-years of eligibility intact.
After a successful Freshman year at Marquette where he played alongside his brother and averaged 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists a game, Hauser transferred to Michigan State.
Unfortunately for Joey Hauser, the 2019-2020 basketball season was the last played under the previous transfer rules. Despite Hauser’s brother being granted a waiver for his transfer to Virginia, Joey Hauser was forced to sit out the full season. Even more frustrating was the NCAA waiting till the season had already started to hear out the full appeals process, leaving Hauser, the team, and the fans waiting and wondering.
The year Hauser sat out may have delayed the development of his game - and worse it may have damaged his mental approach to the game.
The Spartans were coming off a trip to the NCAA, and despite early season struggles looked destined to repeat. Even with Hauser sitting out the season, Coach Tom Izzo heaped praise on the player in waiting. Usually that is a wonderful approach, to an obviously skilled player. In this case it may also have backfired. Fans built up an image of Hauser being the missing piece on a team that looked set to compete for a national championship.
That year ended in the COVID pandemic, and everyone missed the NCAA tournament as it was canceled.
The 2020-2021 MSU year was a transition year. Cassius Winston was gone. Xavier Tillman was gone. The team had to learn to come together under the COVID protocols. The impact was felt by the Spartans and everyone in the country.
Despite all of this, Hauser had a statistically strong year. He was third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.7 points a game and tied for the team lead with 5.6 rebounds a game. Starting in 16 of the Spartans 28 games that season, Hauser matched his Marquette numbers exactly. Offensively, he was even more efficient at MSU, leading the team in shooting percentage (47.5%) and third on the team with 3-point percentage (42%). Still fans felt like they were promised more from Hauser.
In the 2021-2022 season the expectations seem to get the better of the sweet shooting Hauser. Often forced to play out of position and guard opposing teams’ centers, Hauser’s offense - and entire game - took a step back. His scoring average dipped to 7.3 points per game, rebounds to 5.3 a game, and shooting percentages from the floor and three both regressed (44.6% and 40.8% respectively). This was a frustrating season for the entire team, and Hauser seemingly losing confidence in his shot as well as struggles on defense made him a target for the fan base.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Hauser decided to return to MSU for another season. This season was available to him as a makeup for the year he sat out. Sparked by some improved play towards the end of the 2021-2022, Hauser took up the challenge for another go with the Spartans.
Michigan State needed every ounce of Hauser in his graduate year. Two coaching and lineup decisions seemed to fuel a phenomenal (now) final season at Michigan State.
The first was to answer Hauser’s public concerns about playing at the five. Hauser was open before the season about the impact playing undersized at the center position had on his overall game. Despite this year’s team featuring wildly inexperienced centers, Izzo and the Spartans committed to keeping Hauser at the four. The other request Hauser made was to play alongside Malik Hall. Hall and Hauser had spent almost the entirety of the previous year platooning at the four. Even when Hauser moved to the five spot, Hall rarely played alongside him. Hauser was assured the approach for this year would feature Hall more at the three, and allow these two friends to attack opposing teams together.
Michigan State benefited from both of these approaches. Playing almost exclusively at the four spot for just over 34 minutes a game, Hauser’s entire game elevated. Hauser led the team in every single major statistic except assists (comfortably held by AJ Hoggard, though Hauser was third).
Hauser led in scoring (barely over Tyson Walker), putting up 14.5 points a game. His rebounds grew to a career high 7.2, while his shooting became even more efficient, making 48.2% of his overall shots and a truly impressive 44.7% of his threes.
Injuries limited the amount of time he was on the court with Malik Hall, yet this combination was visibly potent when available. Late in the season, Hauser showed signs that his game still has room to grow. Countering a narrative from the fans that if Hauser takes “more than 3 dribbles, he is in trouble”, Hauser showed athletic ability to drive and post up in pivotal moments down the stretch. It seemed when Hall was on the court, Hauser felt more comfortable making these types of moves. Who knows how it would have looked if Hall had been healthy all season (a topic for multiple future articles).
Hauser’s future definitely includes professional basketball. There is some speculation that he could stick in the NBA as a big bodied three point shooter. His efficiency on offense, and 6’9” sturdy frame could make him an interesting role player at that level. If he can show he can defend at that level (potentially still a question), he could become even more. If the NBA doesn’t want him, Hauser has path to making money professionally a lot of places around the world (cough - Europe).
He leaves Michigan State after a complicated career and a seemingly solid legacy. Fans may have been frustrated in the 2021-2022 season, they cannot be anything other than thrilled with the effort and impact Hauser had in his last year.
This was a year to watch a player come into his own. To see coaching find the best in a talented, hard working individual. To see a team held steady by the most consistent presence on the court from the first game to the last.
Joey Hauser will be missed. His memory, hopefully, will stay fresh for a long time in an appreciative fan base.