Stevens Point, Wisconsin isn’t the first place you’d think to look for basketball talent. A town of just 26,000 people nestled in the heart of America’s Dairyland, Stevens Point owns to its name a satellite campus of the University of Wisconsin system and the world’s largest trivia contest run by the university’s radio station.
But from humble beginnings did basketball talent spring. Sam Hauser (and younger brother Joey, who is a consensus top 100 recruit in the class of 2018) arose from the Central Wisconsin town to national prominence, leading Stevens Point Area High School to two straight state championships, going undefeated in his senior season while averaging 18.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3.1 blocks. He earned the Gatorade Wisconsin Player of the Year honors in his senior season, and came to Marquette at the peak of his game, ready to contribute to a young, energetic, hungry squad looking to prove themselves in the elite Big East conference.
And I’ll be honest, I underrated him. I saw a stretch 4, sure, and a good one at that, but Marquette had gotten Katin Reinhardt from transfer and already had Sandy Cohen III and JaJuan Johnson at the 3 or 4 spot. Plus, even though he was a prolific shooter, Marquette had also added Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey in addition to Reinhardt to complement its long range corps. I even wrote an article projecting him to be a bench player getting solid but not fantastic minutes.
I’ll go ahead and take the loss on that one; I was incredibly wrong. Part of it had to do with Reinhardt having some struggles early in the season, especially finding his range from 3, and thus allowing Hauser more minutes alongside Cohen. But Hauser came in and stamped his name into the starting lineup, showing off a maturity that did not reflect his age and experience in the college game. While still having a limited role according to KenPom as of right now, Hauser ranks 22nd in the nation in Offensive Rating, showing his efficiency in finding his shot and working as a part of the bigger offense as a whole.
Most of this can be boiled down to his versatility. Hauser is currently shooting 51% from beyond the arc, 80% from inside it (8-10, so small sample size theater here), and 67% from the free throw line (which could be a lot better, sure, but in all honestly he’s 8-12 from the line so yay small sample size theater part 2). He’s also 6’6” and 225 pounds and has been averaging 9.3 points and 4.9 rebounds on the season while going against quality opponents, including Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Nigel Hayes (even if Hayes did have a great game, Hauser struggled with fouls and while he was on the floor he was more than acceptable at defending Hayes).
Between the struggles of Reinhardt and Cohen transferring, Hauser has been forced into a starting role, and has responded spectacularly (minus the one game against Wisconsin, where most of the team struggled to play basketball in the second half and Hauser ended up fouling out with 0 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist). He’s proven to be great player from the get-go and is more than deserving of the starting spot he has alongside fellow freshman Markus Howard. As a freshman, he’s been outstanding, and he has the rest of the season to get better and turn into an elite wing or stretch 4 in one of basketball’s toughest conferences. That’s not even mentioning the rest of the years he has in a Marquette jersey.
Sam Hauser is a very, very special player, and the sky is the limit for the kid from Stevens Point, Wisconsin. I, for one, will be excited to see what the future holds for him.