December 2, 2020

Independent analysis and commentary on UVA athletics

2020-21 Player to Watch: Sam Hauser 

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By Eugene Mulero

Contributing Columnist

In the many games he played while at Marquette University, Sam Hauser displayed an array of skills, intelligence, and the intangibles that don’t always register on the stat sheet after last buzzer sounds.

At Marquette, Hauser had become the unofficial second option in a team that had been led by Markus Howard, a prolific guard with a talent for scoring.

Hauser had been difficult to guard during his days in the Big East — started every game in 2018-’19, averaging nearly 15 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Hauser’s confidence with the three-ball also helped spread the court during games, presenting problems for teams that lacked a deep defensive presence.

Howard, who secured a spot on the school’s list of all-time greats after graduation, is pursuing a professional career. Hauser, seeking a change for myriad reasons, took his talents to the University of Virginia.

His transfer, which occurred simultaneously to his younger brother Joey Hauser’s departure — he was also at Marquette and left to play at Michigan State — was a blow to the Big East and a boost to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Hauser is expected to try to make sure whatever he learned at Marquette and during his redshirted 2019-2020 season pays off for his new squad.

The 6’8” senior is poised to apply a team-oriented brand of basketball to help the Cavaliers topple many conference rivals and make a deep run during the tournament season. At the small forward position, Hauser is likely to contribute defense and scoring.

Equipped with a triple-threat skillset of dribbling and passing ability, as well as a mid-range jumper, the expectation is for coach Tony Bennett, who has a team buzzing with pre-season hype, to include Hauser in the starting rotation.

The Cavs appear confident about their chances this season. In December, they meet Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and then Villanova for a non-conference contest. The team has the requisite coaching staff and the deep bench to secure solid wins throughout the year and during tournament season.

In the pre-pandemic era, they were college basketball’s most recent national champs and had mastered the half-court slow game. In last year’s short-lived season, UVA suffocated opponents with laser-sharp ball distribution and defense. Scoring had not been in the repertoire: The Cavs won four games by scoring less than 50 points. Hauser’s all-around talents should provide Virginia at least an average of 10 additional points per game.

If Hauser is good news for Virginia, the off-season reboots at North Carolina and Duke is the bad news. The ACC traditional powerhouses filled up on talent and look very ready for big wins in the ACC and beyond.

There will be a variety of turning points in the NCAA basketball world this fall and winter. Amid the global pandemic and unusual accommodations across the sports landscape, playing basketball in the ACC is bound to merit adjustments from coaches and players. Unfortunately, the pandemic’s demand could make a purposeful, normal season unlikely to materialize.

Eugene Mulero is a journalist based in Fairfax, Va.