Sam Hauser was not The Man at Marquette. Playing alongside the nation’s No. 5 scorer two seasons ago, he averaged 10 fewer points and six fewer shots than Big East player of the year Markus Howard.
But efficiency and versatility earned Hauser second-team all-conference honors in that final season with the Golden Eagles. He shot 45.9% from the field, 40.2% beyond the arc and 92.4% from the foul line, collective accuracies that only exceptional shooters attain.
Averaging 14.9 points, 2.4 assists and a team-best 7.9 rebounds, Hauser helped Marquette finish second in the Big East and reach the NCAA tournament. Two months later, in May 2019, he transferred to Virginia, sitting out 2019-20 per NCAA policy.
This season, he could be The Man. In fact, the Cavaliers may need him to be.
Virginia ranked 234th among 353 Division I teams last season in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency metric, a jarring contrast to 2018-19, when the Cavaliers rode the nation’s most efficient offense — take a bow Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter — to the national championship.
Courtesy of its perennially elite defense, Virginia closed 2019-20 with eight consecutive victories and finished just a game behind regular-season champion Florida State in the ACC standings. But with defensive pillars Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key having completed their eligibility, the Cavaliers may take a small step back on that end of the court, furthering the need for additional offense.
And that’s Hauser’s wheelhouse.
“When we need a shot down the stretch, or just a bucket in general, we can look to him for sure,” junior point guard Kihei Clark said.
UVA never found such a presence last season, and the team’s 3-point accuracy of 30.3% ranked 311th nationally. Moreover, it was the second-worst in program history — the 1990-91 team shot 29.7%.
Contrast that to Hauser, who in three years at Marquette made 246 of 553 attempts beyond the arc (44.5%). To put those numbers into further context: UVA’s career leader in 3-point accuracy (minimum 100 made) is Guy at 42.5%.
Think about that, Cavaliers faithful. Through three seasons, Hauser is a better deep shooter than Guy. Oh, and he’s 6-foot-8.
Another compliment: Hauser’s size, stats and three-dimensional game — inside, midrange and beyond the arc — are reminiscent of Hunter, and the defensive attention he demands should make Clark, guard Tomas Woldetensae and 7-1 forward Jay Huff better scorers. His addition to the active roster also is a primary reason the Cavaliers are No. 4 in the preseason Associated Press poll.
ACC media voted the Cavaliers No. 1 in the league’s preseason poll and named Hauser to the preseason all-conference team — he was the second-leading vote-getter behind North Carolina’s Garrison Brooks. Among the Division I transfers to make the end-of-season all-ACC first team are UNC’s Cameron Johnson (transferred from Pittsburgh), Miami’s Jack McClinton (Siena) and Duke’s Roshown McLeod (St. John’s) and Dahntay Jones (Rutgers).
Tony Bennett is entering his 12th season as Virginia’s coach, a tenure that includes notable Division I transfers such as Key (Alabama), Anthony Gill (South Carolina) and Darius Thompson (Tennessee). What Bennett has never coached, at UVA or in three years at Washington State, is a 20-points-a-game scorer.
That’s a function of his teams’ patient offense and lock-down defense, the latter causing opponents to burn considerable time off the 30-second shot clock.
The Cavaliers’ highest-scoring player under Bennett was Malcolm Brogdon, who averaged 18.2 points as a senior in 2015-16, when he led UVA to the Elite Eight and became the program’s first consensus first-team All-American since Ralph Sampson in 1982-83. Brogdon was also the first ACC player voted the league’s player of the year and defensive player of the year in the same season.
Virginia’s most recent 20-point scorer was Norman Nolan in 1997-98. The Cavaliers’ tempo — they’ve been the nation’s slowest-paced team in the past four seasons — and Huff’s scoring potential likely preclude Hauser from reaching that benchmark.
Which is fine by him. He intends to prove he’s more than a scorer and that 18 months of practice and conditioning have made him a complete player.
Hauser’s quest is scheduled to start Nov. 25 against Maine in Uncasville, Conn., his first college game since Marquette’s 2019 NCAA tournament loss to Murray State.
“Having a redshirt year, you get a whole year to really work on your game and figure out what you need to fine-tune and what you really need to get better at, and I took that very seriously,” Hauser said. “I hope I can show everyone that I’ve gotten better and I’ve improved, and hopefully I’m more than [the] shooter that I’m labeled as. I’ve taken that personally, and I’m just really excited to showcase it. …
“I learned I’m a pretty disciplined person, and I didn’t really take the off year lightly. I really wanted to … [perfect] my craft and [get] better at things I needed to. And I’m just really excited to get back on the floor. I miss competing, I miss that adrenaline drive. Being on a team and playing for one common goal, that’s the best part of basketball.”