Why This Professor Says Recruiting Hoops Star Sam Hauser Was a No-Brainer


Whitelaw Reid

When UVA basketball coach Tony Bennett recruited star Sam Hauser, he saw many of the qualities that associate professor Paul Harris has observed in the classroom over the last two years. (Hauser photo by Matt Riley, UVA Athletics.)

When Sam Hauser hit the college basketball transfer market two years ago, University of Virginia head coach Tony Bennett pounced.

Sure, Bennett loved Hauser’s size, 3-point shooting ability and the fact that he was a fellow Wisconsin native and son of a coach. But he was also drawn to many of his intangible qualities.

Interestingly, some of those qualities are also what stood out to UVA School of Education and Human Development associate professor Paul Harris when he recruited Hauser to his research team last spring.

Harris’ work focuses on improving the college and career readiness process of underserved students, promoting the identity development of Black male student-athletes and facilitating the empowerment of anti-racist school counselors.

Every year, undergraduate students from across Grounds apply for the one or two spots on Harris’ team, which also includes two graduate students. If accepted, they receive academic credit in addition to gaining invaluable hands-on research experience.

Harris said selecting Hauser – whom he had gotten to know through two of his courses – was an easy choice.

“He’s incredibly bright, for one, but he’s also a hard worker and he gives a lot of attention to detail, which I tend to appreciate as an instructor,” Harris said. “It shows up in his work, which is nice. He’s very engaged, kind of a quiet leader. He’s not going to be the most vocal, but his consistency, his work ethic, his standard of excellence in his own work – it leads others.”

Hauser, a redshirt senior who was named to both the All-ACC First Team and All-ACC Academic Team this week, first met Harris in the fall of 2019 when he took his course, “Counseling Student-Athletes.” The course aims to examine the experiences of student-athletes through a counseling lens, focusing on how their academic, socioemotional and career goals are being developed.

Hauser, a School of Education and Human Development student who is majoring in youth and social innovation, said his biggest takeaway was that you never really know what another fellow student-athlete might be going through on a daily basis.

“If someone is in the need of help, and you’re in the counseling position, there are action steps you can take to try and help this person get some stuff off their chest and things like that,” Hauser said. “Being a student-athlete, there is a lot of media attention, stress within your sport, stress from academics – and sometimes it all gets bottled up and you don’t know what the right outlet is to get help from. So this class was learning about the outlets and how they can help you in a positive way.”

Last spring, Hauser, looking for an independent study project, applied for one of the spots on Harris’ research teams and was accepted.

Hauser said he has loved the extra time with Harris.

“He’s easy to relate to, easy to talk to,” Hauser said. “It was a pretty instant connection between us. He’s definitely a great professor and a great guy. I’m glad I was able to meet with him and work with him.”

Harris said the feeling has been mutual. He said Hauser’s attention to detail – the thing that had caught his eye during his courses – has once again been on display.

“He did some amazing work cataloging programs across the country at the college level that serve African American athletes,” Harris said. “There are a lot of programs out there in higher education that might serve student-athletes or Black student-athletes, but may not really dig into the nuance of what college career readiness and indicators are, and so Sam really had to listen to me and probably even read some of my work to know what programs would really be congruent with the work that I’m doing and what I’m interested in. 

“To that end, I was impressed by what he found and how congruent those programs were with the work that I’m doing. He wasn’t just grabbing from anywhere. He had to find some research-based programs with evidence-based practices.”

In the fall, Hauser took another of Harris’s courses, “Introduction to Counseling,” which examines counseling as a profession, taking a deep dive into the prerequisites required to get into the field and the different career paths that can be pursued.

Currently, Hauser is working with Harris on an additional research project, part of a second independent study. It examines the history of African American athletic participation at UVA, as it relates to, among many things, academic achievement and graduation rates.

Hauser has been trying to identify “pioneering” athletes in every one of UVA’s varsity sports.

“Being a kid from Wisconsin, I didn’t know much about the history of UVA, so it’s been a lot of learning for me,” said Hauser, a Green Bay native who grew up in Stevens Point. “I think my biggest takeaway so far is that I don’t think there’s been enough archives from the past that have documented pioneering athletes in each sport. Some of the information has been lost throughout the years, which has been really unfortunate because there could have been someone who was really influential in their sport and we wouldn’t even know.”

Hauser, who had a 3.85 grade-point average in the fall, said his academic experience at UVA has been different than the one he had at Marquette University, where he played with his younger brother, Joey (now at Michigan State University), and majored in advertising.

When Hauser, who had always thought about a career in coaching – his father Dave was a high school coach – made the decision to transfer to UVA, T.J. Grams, the athletic department’s director of academics, told him about the School of Education’s youth and social innovation major.

“I thought it was interesting, and so I just took it on,” Hauser said. “It’s been a very cool and different experience that I think has been very beneficial.”

Hauser said he isn’t 100% sure he wants to go into coaching. What he does know is he wants to stay in basketball in some way.

If he chooses the coaching route, Bennett believes he would do well.

“He thinks the game,” Bennett said. “You just watch how he plays – he understands the game, the unselfishness, when to be aggressive, all aspects of it. … There are so many factors, but as far as his knowledge of the game and the kind of character he has, I think he’d make a great coach.

“[But] the game is changing in terms of all the things you’re dealing with, so I don’t know if I can highly recommend anyone to go into this profession,” added Bennett, laughing.

Harris said he believes Hauser will do well in whatever career he winds up pursuing, because of the commitment he has already made in himself.

In addition to the superb work he has done on his research team, Harris said Hauser has taken him up on some of his reading recommendations, most notably a book on leadership, “Legacy,” that centers on a New Zealand rugby team.

“He’s investing in ways right now that will lend themselves well to what he wants to do after his playing days,” Harris said. “I love that.”

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