Jared Hauser may have donned his cap and gown and received his high school diploma, but he had unfinished business at North Marion High School.
A member of the boys basketball program that finished fourth in the state at the 4A tournament in March, Hauser made a late commitment to continue his career on the court this fall for the Pierce College Raiders in Steilacoom, Washington.
The North Marion athletic department held a signing ceremony for Hauser in the high school commons on Friday with school out for the year, putting the final feather in a year in which the Huskies signed 10 athletes to continue playing in college next year.
While Hauser's ceremony was relatively late in the hour, he had actually signed his commitment papers to Pierce before graduation, providing a sense of finality to a year in which knee surgery the previous season kept his expectations of playing collegiately relatively low.
"It wasn't my goal to play (college) basketball coming into my senior year," Hauser said. "Coming off of knee surgery, my goal was just to play again, and I came back and my knee was almost 100 percent, and that was awesome."
Hauser's injury woes began heading into his junior year.
"Last year before basketball season, I was told I had a dead spot in the bone of my knee," he said. "In the back of my knee cap there was a spot the size of a quarter that was dead."
Hauser needed surgery to repair the spot, but didn't want to miss his junior season. Doctors told him recovery would take four and a half months, and would permanently affect his mobility.
"I was told I'd never be 100 percent again," Hauser said. "Eighty percent tops."
Fortunately, there was no risk in delaying the procedure, so Hauser played his junior year and had his knee surgically repaired in the spring, forcing him to miss the entirety of the 2018 baseball season.
But he remained in the dugout with his baseball teammates, cheering every step of the way along the Huskies' run to the state semifinals. Just under four months after his surgery, Hauser completed his rehab and received the best news he could hope to ask for. His knee had healed fully and his mobility would be the same it had been before the surgery.
The full recovery allowed Hauser to consider playing collegiate basketball. He reached out to a handful of college coaches in December, but was more focused on enjoying his senior year with the teammates he played with for much of his basketball career.
"We all knew each other and played together for so long," Hauser said. "At the beginning of the season we were so hopeful."
But the Huskies got a bit of an eye-opener in the first game of the season, giving up a season-worst 82 points in a 20-point loss to the Woodburn Bulldogs.
North Marion went 6-8 in their non-conference schedule, much of it against opponents ranked near the top of the OSAA rankings.
"We were literally playing all the best teams in the state," head coach Tully Wagner said. "Of the top three teams that finished ahead of us at state, that's five of our nine losses on the season."
All that competition proved to be just what the Huskies needed to get ready for the league schedule, where the team went 9-1 against the Tri-River Conference to win the league title for the first time among this group of seniors.
"Being able to win league, which something we've only been able to do in baseball, to come together in basketball was awesome," Hauser said.
Hauser enjoyed a phenomenal senior year as the team's three-and-D wing, averaging 10.7 points per game, along with four rebounds, four assists, two steals and 39 percent shooting from outside to be named First Team All-Conference.
"We always knew his senior year he would be a big part of our team," Wagner said, noting that he had grown physically from a 5-foot-4 freshman to a 6-1 senior while continuing to add to his game throughout his fourth years with the program.
"He's always been able to shoot the ball and score the ball, but with his added length, he was able to defend in ways he hadn't before."
Hauser received some interest from the Pierce coaching staff before the state basketball tournament and visited them a couple weeks after the playoffs. He received an informal scholarship offer to join the team, but never got the official call until late in the school year.
"A couple weeks ago, they sent it to me, I signed it and here we are," Hauser said.
The Raiders are part of the Northwest Athletic Conference, where they went 5-9 in the West division against teams from the Puget Sound area of Washington en route to a 13-15 season.
"From where he was at his sophomore year to signing a scholarship commitment to play college basketball is amazing," Wagner said. "There's just massive leaps both physically and in his game. That's why he's able to play at the next level, and that's what you always want to see is guys make that jump."
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