Will Joey Hauser leave Michigan State? A look at his career
The advanced graduate took to Instagram for a simple goodbye. His story is a fascinating mirror of the NCAA’s recent changes.
Michigan State forward Joey Hauser took to Instagram in a short message saying, “that’s it.
Hauser has been active in collegiate basketball since 2018, saying goodbye after six years. The sweet-shooting, 6’9″ forward has a complicated background and legacy amid a career full of starts and stops.
Coming out of high school, Hauser missed most of his senior season with an injury, and also took the rare approach of enrolling at Marquette early (in basketball). Spring 2018. Thanks to the injury, he took 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 per game, Hauser transferred to Michigan State.
Unfortunately for Joey Hauser, the 2019-2020 basketball season was the last to be played under the previous transfer rules. Although Hauser’s brother was waived for transferring to Virginia, Joey Hauser was forced to sit out the entire season. Even more frustrating was waiting until the NCAA season had already begun to hear the full appeals process, leaving Hauser, the team and fans waiting and wondering.
The years Hauser sat out may have stunted the development of his game, and worse, may have damaged his mental approach to the game.
The Spartans were coming off a trip to the NCAAs, and though it seemed like a repeat of their early season struggles. Even though Hauser was out for the season, coach Tom Izzo was full of praise for the player in waiting. Usually that’s a fantastic view, obviously for the skilled player. In this case, it may have backfired. Fans built an image of Hauser as the missing piece on a team that looked like it would compete for a national championship.
That year ended in the COVID pandemic, and everyone lost it as the NCAA tournament was canceled.
The 2020-2021 MSU year was a transition year. Cassius Winston was gone. Xavier Tillman left. The team had to learn how to come together according to COVID protocols. The impact was felt by the Spartans and everyone in the country.
Despite all that, Hauser had a solid statistical year. He was third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.7 points per game and tied for the game lead with 5.6 rebounds. Starting 16 of the Spartans’ 28 games that season, Hauser matched his Marquette numbers. Offensively, he was even more efficient at MSU, leading the team in field goal percentage (47.5%) and third on the team in 3-point percentage (42%). However, fans felt they were promised more from Hauser.
In the 2021-2022 season, expectations seem to improve for the sweet-shooting Hauser. Often forced to play out of position and guard opposing teams’ centers, Hauser’s offense – and the game as a whole – took a step back. His scoring average dropped to 7.3 points per game, his rebounding to 5.3 per game, and his shooting percentages from the floor and three dropped (44.6% and 40.8% respectively). It was a disappointing season for the entire team, and Hauser’s loss of confidence in his shooting and struggles on defense made him a target for fans.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Hauser decided to return to MSU for another season. It was available as a make-up for the year he sat this season. Sparked by an improved game toward the end of 2021-2022, Hauser took another turn at the challenge with the Spartans.
Michigan State needed every ounce of Hauser in his senior year. Two coaching and lineup decisions seemed to fuel a (now) fantastic final season at Michigan State.
The first was to address Hauser’s public concerns about playing in fives. Hauser was open before the season about the impact playing smaller at the center position had on his overall game. Despite this year’s team’s inexperienced centers, Izzo and the Spartans committed to keeping Hauser at the four. Another request Hauser made was to play alongside Malik Hall. Hall and Hauser spent almost all of the previous year in platoons in the flats. Even when Hauser moved to the five spot, Hall rarely played next to him. Hauser made sure that this year’s approach would feature more of Hall at the three, and would allow these two friends to attack opposing teams together.
Michigan State took advantage of both of these approaches. Playing almost exclusively at the four point for just over 34 minutes per game, Hauser’s overall game rose. Hauser led the team in every major stat except assists (comfortably held by AJ Hoggard, though Hauser was third).
Hauser led the scoring (barely ahead of Tyson Walker), putting up 14.5 points per game. His rebounding was up to 7.2, and his shooting was even more efficient, hitting a truly impressive 48.2% of his field goals and 44.7% of his three-pointers.
Injuries limited Malik’s time on the court with Hall, but this combination was very potent when available. Late in the season, Hauser showed that his game still has room to grow. Countering a fan narrative that “if he takes more than 3 dribbles, he’s in trouble,” Hauser showed the athletic ability to drive and step up at key moments down the stretch. It seemed like when Hall was on the court, Hauser felt more comfortable making these types of moves. Who knows what Hall would have been like had he been healthy for the entire season (a topic for multiple future articles).
Hauser’s future certainly includes professional basketball. There is some speculation that he could stick in the NBA as a big three-point shooter. His offensive efficiency and strong 6’9” frame could make him an interesting role player at this level. If he shows he can defend at that level (potentially still a question), he could become even more so. If the NBA doesn’t want him, Hauser has a way to make money professionally in many places around the world (cough – Europe).
He leaves Michigan State after a complicated career and a seemingly solid legacy. While fans may be disappointed by the 2021-2022 season, they may be excited by Hauser’s effort and impact over the past year.
It was a year to see a player come into his own. To see coaches bring out the best in a person with talent and hard work. Seeing a consistent presence on the court from the first game to the last.
Joey Hauser will be missed. His memory will hopefully remain fresh for a long time in an appreciative fan base.