Bloomington, Ind. — When Joey Hauser transferred in the offseason to Michigan State, there was hope the sophomore forward would be eligible to play this season.
However, by late November the decision came down that the 6-foot-9 Hauser’s waiver to be declared immediately eligible was denied by the NCAA, meaning he’d have to sit out the entire season after opting to leave Marquette following the 2018-19 season.
For some players, that could mean fading into the background. However, according to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, Hauser has embraced his role on the scout team, pushing to make the rest of the team the best they can be when they take the floor.
“He comes upstairs, watches a little film on whoever we want him to be,” Izzo said as No. 11 Michigan State prepared to take on Indiana on Thursday night. “He'll go into practice and if it's a left-hander, he'll start shooting left-handed. If it's a right-hander, he'll start shooting right-handed. If it's a post guy, he’ll go in the post. If it's a perimeter guy, he'll go to the perimeter.
“We sit there and marvel sometimes that he just shot that left-handed, but it was an 18-foot shot.”
There’s no doubt the Spartans could use that talent this season. The power forward spot has been in a state of flux all season as sophomores Marcus Bingham and Thomas Kithier, as well as freshmen Malik Hall and Julius Marble, have all been part of the rotation with both Bingham and Kithier starting.
Hauser averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds a game last season for Marquette and was named Big East Freshman of the Week five times. His ability to stretch defenses with his 3-point shooting — he made 42.5 percent of his triples at Marquette — and be effective in the ball-screen offense would have been huge this year, but it will be a welcomed addition net season.
In the meantime, Izzo said Hauser has been proving his value even though he’s been relegated to the scout team.
“The redshirt years are difficult for people, especially a guy like him who didn't play his senior year of high school because of the injury,” Izzo said. “Now he's sitting out this year so the last three years he's only played one year basketball, but this kid is going to be a special player. He gets it. He has as good a basketball IQ as the (Denzel) Valentines, the Magics, the Cassius Winstons. He has a very high basketball IQ, and probably the best part is his shooting and that he is an incredible passer.”
There are still things Izzo wants to improve before he gets back into game action next season.
“He's a little too quiet for me yet,” Izzo said with a smile. “I'm going to break him out of that before I'm done with him. But he has superseded where I thought he'd be. We said he had to get stronger. We said he's gotta learn to guard people on the perimeter, and he's really working on that.”
And now that Michigan State has reached the second half of the season, the Spartans are that much closer to adding a valuable piece to the rotation.
“Like we always tell our redshirts, ‘Once you get past Christmas you can see the light at the end of the tunnel,’” Izzo said. “And he's making the most of it. I think he's really making a lot of his redshirt year and that's encouraging.”