Somehow, Virginia won 23 men’s basketball games this past season with an offense that ranked 348th out of 350 Division I teams.
There’s help on the way.
Actually, that has been the situation for a while as the Cavaliers have waited for the debut of 6-foot-8, 225-pound Sam Hauser, a transfer from Marquette.
Hauser scored 1,282 points in three seasons for Marquette, through the 2018-19 season. The leading scorers among the UVa returnees — Kihei Clark and Jay Huff — have combined for fewer than 1,000 points in their careers.
Hauser sat out this past season at UVa, where he practiced with a Cavaliers team that ended on an eight-game winning streak and finished 23-7 in a season that was cut short by the threat of the new coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we would have shocked a lot of people,” said Hauser who spoke to the media Tuesday via teleconference. “The way we were playing, we were tough to beat. I don’t think any team wanted to see us in the [NCAA] bracket.
“I think we would have been a second weekend team for sure, and who knows what happens from there?”
Hauser is from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, formerly the home of Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, who recruited Hauser out of high school.
Hauser settled on Marquette, where he later was joined by his younger brother, Joey. At the end of the 2018-19 season, the Hauser brothers looked into other options and both visited Virginia, Sam for the second time.
“There was already a relationship there,” Sam Hauser said, “and I think it just sparked back up from where it was. Obviously, coming off a national championship, you could see where this program could take you.
“I had aspirations to get to a level like they just experienced this past year. This year was great for me and the team. I think I got a lot better throughout the year [by] redshirting.”
His younger brother transferred to Michigan State.
“The plan going in was that we were going to together, no matter the circumstances,” Sam Hauser said. “It got to the point in the recruiting process where we both liked different schools better.
“It wouldn’t have been fair to the other guy who thought it was cool to play with his brother, even though he didn’t like it as much.”
The older Hauser was a captain at Marquette as a junior in 2018-19 and hopes to have a similar impact from a leadership standpoint at UVa.
From a playing standpoint, Hauser learned the Cavaliers’ system while going up against a pair of veterans, Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key, most days in practice.
“I don’t think I have to live up to expectations because I have my own expectations,” said Hauser, who has been touted by teammates as a possible All-ACC player.
“Those guys [Diakite and Key] are really good players, and I think it showed at the defensive end. Losing those two leaves a really big void.”
Hauser was speaking by phone Tuesday from his Wisconsin home, where it snowed 3 inches earlier this week.
“I’m playing cards, doing puzzles,” he said, “I used to play the piano back in the day. I’m trying to play that a little bit more lately. We have a little five-hole golf course in our backyard just to stay occupied.”
After close to a calendar year in Charlottesville, it didn’t take long for Hauser to become acquainted with the school and his 2020-21 teammates.
“Obviously, Kihei [Clark] I think is going to make a big jump again,” Hauser said, “but I think people are sleeping on Justin McKoy. He’s a really hard worker who puts the time in [and] puts the effort in.
“If he gets in the game, I know he’s going to play his butt off.”
Hauser, who roomed with Diakite and returning 7-footer Huff, seems to have adapted to life in the Mid-Atlantic.
“I think the basketball was the easiest part, honestly,” he said. “Overall, I think it was just adjusting to the campus and a different location outside the state of Wisconsin.”
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