Sam Hauser might be the most accomplished college basketball player in the country who won’t play in a game this season.
The Marquette transfer was a second team All-Big East selection last season after averaging 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He’ll sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he’ll still play a crucial role on UVa’s practice squad.
“I can remember a few years ago when Anthony Gill and [Malcolm] Brogdon were our redshirt guys because of Anthony transferring and Malcolm was injured,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “And I remember how good practice was and how hard it was at times to be successful against the second unit — the green group we call them. And you see that in Sam. He brings that.”
Bennett isn’t the only one noticing Hauser’s impact in practice. He’s giving fits to his new teammates thanks to his shooting and size. He’s athletic enough to get to the rim and big enough to finish through contact. He’s also a scrappy defender with length and toughness.
In preparation for Syracuse, UVa uses six defensive players in practice. The 3-3 zone helps simulate Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, and it’s an even more accurate representation with Hauser being one of the six guys defending.
“It’s just a great matchup in practice, just someone to keep you honest every day,” Virginia guard Braxton Key said. “If you don’t come ready to play, he’ll make sure you notice.”
Hauser’s 2019-2020 impact will come as a practice player, but his future on the court the following season excites fans, players and coaches. He’s played three seasons of college basketball, and he’s scored 1,283 career points. With an entire season to learn Bennett’s system, he’s expected to play a major role on the team for the 2020-21 season.
“His experience going on four years of college, it helps, and it makes you get excited about him for the future of course and hopefully he’ll really work hard and develop his game and do what guys have done in the past in that situation,” Bennett said. “Do whatever he can to serve the team and make them better and improve his game in the process. And he’s actually been leading, too, which I like. He’s been talking to the young guys, and he’s seeing things, and he’s definitely getting more comfortable.”
For an experienced player like Hauser, adjusting to the team’s scheme and philosophy hasn’t been all that difficult.
“It’s been a really smooth transition so far,” Hauser said. “Coach Bennett and the rest of his staff and all the guys have been very welcoming of me, and I’ve just fit right in, so it’s been awesome.”
The challenging part of the transfer process has been adjusting to life in Charlottesville and becoming acclimated with a new university. He joked that he’s still adjusting to the 60-degree fall weather in Virginia as opposed to Wisconsin, which quickly transitions to winter.
Hauser also will play without his younger brother Joey, who played his freshman season at Marquette last year before also transferring. Joey landed at Michigan State.
“He’s doing well, I’m doing well,” Sam Hauser said. “It was the right decision for both of us. We stay in contact pretty much every day, and we cheer each other on no matter what.”
As Hauser becomes more adjusted to life away from Wisconsin and to UVa’s basketball philosophy, he’ll wait his turn to become a starter for one of the ACC’s top programs. Until then, he’ll accept his role as Virginia’s most dynamic green group player.
“It’s tough at times, because you obviously practice for the games, and the college environment is so awesome,” Hauser said, “to be able to be a part of that is crazy. Having a year away from that is going to be hard at times, but it will all be worth it.”