Graduate senior forward Joey Hauser stoops low to tie his shoe in the waning seconds of Michigan State’s second game of the NCAA Tournament. The crowd goes wild. Swaths of MSU fans roar their approval for the formal transfer portal acquisition, sending chants of “Joey, Joey, Joey,” echoing through Nationwide Arena.
From jeers to cheers, Joey Hauser uses graduate season to flip the script
A season ago, fans weren’t eager to give him props for much, let alone simply stopping to lace up some sneakers. Boos and jeers weren’t entirely uncommon during Hauser’s first couple of years in East Lansing. But a lot can change in a season.
The No. 7 seed Spartans are seconds away from upsetting No. 2 Marquette and advancing to the second weekend of March Madness for the first time since 2019. MSU wouldn’t be in that position without Hauser.
On an afternoon where scoring was hard to come by, Hauser was just one of three Spartans to reach double digits against the Golden Eagles. He scored 14 points against his former team, half of those coming from the free throw line.
“Joey, it’s so fun to hear people chanting when people weren’t chanting a few years ago," Head Coach Tom Izzo said to Hauser at the podium following the win over Marquette. “I think he’s deserved every bit of it.”
He was a factor throughout the entire tournament. Hauser scored a team-high 17 points just a few days prior, pushing MSU past USC in the first round of the tournament. He notched 18 in Michigan State’s overtime loss to Kansas State a week later.
Hauser averaged just over 16 points per game in the Spartans’ three NCAA tournament games, undoubtably an essential piece of the team’s Sweet Sixteen berth.
However, that's just his post-season contributions. Hauser was one of the few players during the regular season that was dependable almost every night — a rebuke to past criticisms of inconsistency. He averaged 14.4 points per game on the season, second only to senior guard Tyson Walker. Hauser’s average of seven rebounds per game led the team.
Hauser improved in nearly every statistical category this season. He played 11.9 more minutes per game and improved his field goal, free throw and three-point shooting percentages. The aforementioned 14.4 points per game this year nearly doubled his average last season.
Again, Hauser went from a player oft maligned for his streaky play to one of the core foundations of Michigan State’s 2022-23 roster.
“Honestly, it’s just being more confident in my shot, myself and my game,” Hauser said. “Stepping into a bigger role was something that I’ve always wanted to do. Teammates have helped out a lot in that aspect, just telling me to shoot the ball and keep making plays.”
Izzo could consistently look to Hauser not only for a bucket, but for stabilization in a roster that was, for most of the season, anything but. That was especially true when the injury bug decided to bite the team; when senior forward Malik Hall’s injury depleted an already thin forward group, Hauser logged heavy minutes to stop the bleeding. And when the offense embarked on an in-game lull (which was often for most of the season), it was often up to either Walker or Hauser to create a spark and heat things up.
Hauser could come back another year if he petitioned to the NCAA to make up for a freshman season missed due to injury, but this is likely his last year at Michigan State. While there hasn’t been a definite answer yet, his Instagram post captioned “That’s a wrap” seems to signal that his collegiate playing career is over. There’s still plenty of time left this off-season (and the news that both Walker and Hall are both returning could sway things), but for now, the writing is on the wall.
If this was truly Hauser’s final season, he’ll be departing on a high note. Weighed down by lofty expectations from the fanbase, things didn’t go exactly as planned initially. But Hauser stuck around, worked on his game and himself, and unlocked the potential that Izzo (and the fans) saw from the jump.
“It’s been fun to see a guy that almost wanted to give it up and then do what he did this year,” Izzo said. “That’ll help me in my coaching no matter how many more years I do it because you get to see those kinds of things happen.”
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