(Image – Joey Hauser – https://twitter.com/jjhouz24)
Stephanie Hauser stood in front of her two sons, Joey and Sam, who each had a slip of paper in their hands. The two of them had been struggling with the decision of where to commit as transfers for a while now. After spending two years together at Marquette, they were determined to stick together as transfers. But, as the process fleshed itself out, it started to become clear to each of them that their best destinations weren’t the same place. “They were each leaning one direction or another,” remembers Stephanie, “when they finished their last trip we could see that they were really struggling with the decision which is where we stepped in.”
That night when she handed each of them a piece of paper, it was with a single purpose. Stephanie says that “I said to them, ‘think about your brother’s scenario and where he would fit best.’” So, she sent them each back to their high school bedrooms and instructed them to write down the school that they thought was best for their brother. When they each returned a little while later, Sam’s paper read Michigan State and Joey’s read Virginia. “That’s how they decided to go their separate ways,” Stephanie recalls, “when they really finally realized that there was a different school that was a better fit for their brother that was different for what was best for them.”
That decision was an incredibly difficult one to make for both of them. But, their parents are confident that this will only help them and their relationship with each other. “They’re really close as brothers,” says their father, David. “They grew up playing together on the same teams. They spent a lot of time in the driveway together growing up. And then when they decided they were going to go to different schools, I feel like they talk more now and are going to be closer because they’ve been away.”
Sam’s decision to transfer to Virginia
Looking back, Sam’s decision to transfer to Charlottesville seemed inevitable. Hailing from Stevens Point, his and the Hauser’s connection to the Bennett family and Bennett basketball is strong. In fact, Hauser’s uncle played AAU basketball with Bennett, and both his dad and uncle played against Tony on Dick Bennett coached teams in high school. “The city has that Bennett mark with it,” says David, “it is a proud area and Stevens Point is really proud to have that relationship with the Bennetts.” He goes on to emphasize that “the really cool thing is when Sam transferred to UVA, it made it even more special for people in Stevens Point to follow another Stevens Point family at UVA.”
Of course, Sam’s decision to come to UVA was based on more than just the Stevens Point connection. At the end of the day, the opportunity for him to play for Tony Bennett was too good to pass up. “The question isn’t about Sam,” says David. “It’s about Tony. If you have a chance to have your son spend time with a person like Tony… I think Sam saw the value in that for his experience moving forward in life regardless if that’s basketball or a job or whatever. He’s got time with Tony Bennett and I don’t think there’s a price you can put on that.” Stephanie adds that, on the basketball side of things, “Sam has such a basketball mind,” adding that “he has a great IQ and he just wants to be coached by a coach like Tony Bennett. He respects everything about Coach Bennett as a person and he just wanted to be in that environment.”
Additionally, the schematic similarities at UVA to the system Sam played in at Stevens Point also contributed to his fit at Virginia as Sam’s high school coach Scott Anderson modeled his system after Dick Bennett’s. “UVA is a lot like the program we had at [Stevens Point],” David says, “we played a little faster but as far as offensive and defensive philosophy, it was most similar to UVA.” As a result he notes that, “Sam has some familiarity with how you’re supposed to play the game in that system.”
That comfort in the UVA system, the Bennett connection to Stevens Point, and the pre-established relationship with the Virginia coaching staff as a result of Virginia being one of Hauser’s top schools out of high school all made his decision the second time around that much easier. Stephanie notes that, out of high school, Sam “really strongly considered Virginia,” but, in the end, “was unsure about going that far from home back at age sixteen or seventeen.” But, with his brother’s endorsement and the fantastic second chance to play for Tony Benett, Sam’s decision was clear in 2019.
UVA vs MSU
Now that both boys sat out their required redshirt year after transferring in 2019, they’ve both had successful early seasons in 2020. They’re both currently leading their respective team in scoring with over fourteen points per contest. Both Michigan State and Virginia have had their ups and downs so far as MSU almost lost Detroit Mercy after beating Duke on the first of December. Of course, UVA dropped a tough one to San Francisco and has bounced back with wins against St. Francis and Kent State. Now, heading into Wednesday night’s contest, all eyes are on the Hausers.
For their parents, the fact that both boys are playing again is reason enough to be excited. “They had to sit out a year so if they’re playing each other or whoever we’re just happy to see them back on the basketball court,” says David as he notes that “it was a long time for them not to play but it was also a long time for us not to see them play.” Fortunately, both Stephanie and David will be in the stands at JPJ with their daughter, Nicki, come Wednesday night.
For Sam and Joey, this is going to be a game like no other. “It’s going to be a really weird experience playing against each other,” says Stephanie, “they’ve never played against each other, so we’re excited. It’s going to be interesting for sure.” She points out that “Joey said it best, that it’s gonna be hard for him to focus on his game because he’s going to want to watch Sam play and I know Sam is going to feel the same way.”
As for rooting interests within the family? “I know people are going to be asking us ‘who are you going to root for,’ but, honestly, I’m rooting for both guys,” says David. “I’m not sure how they can both win the game,” he adds with a chuckle, “but I’m rooting for both guys. I know how much this means for them on a personal level. It’s most important that both of them are going to try their darndest to win. Not because it’s their brother, but because it’s a big game. I’m going to be in both their corners.” Stephane adds that “I don’t feel anything but excitement for them. I’m not nervous at all,” going on to say that “one is going to win and one is going to lose. And, whoever loses, it’s just going to be salt in the wound because not only did they lose a big game but they lost to their brother.”
But, all in all, the Hauser parents see this as more of a celebration of their boys and their family than it is anything else. “Truly, my first reaction [to hearing that they’d be playing against each other] was just gratitude,” says Stephanie. “I’m so grateful that they’re getting able to play and that this is actually on the schedule.”
Despite that disappointment, both parents couldn’t be happier with where their boys are. Stephanie recalls that “when our two boys made the decision to transfer we just looked at each other and said ‘Can you believe our two sons are going to play for Tom Izzo and Tony Bennett?’” She adds that “we’ve had to pinch ourselves. It’s a parent’s dream come true because these are two men who are going to make a difference in their lives forever. We feel like our family could not be more grateful for the situation they’re in.”
Wednesday night will be a special one for the Hauser family. With Virginia and Michigan State both being hopeful title contenders, this is a marquee matchup and all eyes will be on Sam and Joey Hauser as they tip off on opposite sides of the court for the first time.