Basketball Star Chase Budinger Has NBA Future - page 3

By Tom Sheridan on March 31, 2006

"It was a tough decision. UCLA and USC had good volleyball programs, so I was twisting and turning that in my head. But I had a special feeling about Arizona. I always watch their games on TV and they have a special environment. Still, USC and UCLA were right up in L.A. and my parents could always come up and watch me play. It ended up that Arizona is the right fit with the style of offense they run and because Lute Olson is the best coach in college. And if I want to get to the next, next level, that's the coach that I need to do that."

The coaches at the last level couldn't have been more impressed. This is what a couple of them had to say about Budinger:

"He is the best I've ever seen," said Alex Estrada of Eastlake High School, after Budinger put together 50 points, nine rebounds and three blocks against his team in the San Diego Section Division I championship game. "When we won (the section title) in 2001, we played Josh Childress (Lakewood High, Stanford, Atlanta Hawks) and he doesn't touch Chase. We heard all the hype and he's everything he was advertised as. We couldn't stop him, but they have a great supporting cast."

"That guy is for real," Long Beach Jordan coach Ron Massey said after Budinger scored 45 points in an 84-76 win in the first round of the state tournament. "He's the best shooter I've seen this year. We tried to keep a hand in his face, and we did. He still made shots. A couple of times we went into a scramble and sent two guys at him. That didn't work either."

What transpired during the McDonald's Game stood as an example of how Budinger may continue to defy stereotypes and confound opponents. Budinger was named co-MVP in the recent McDonald's Game (with Kevin Durant of Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md., who is headed to Texas) despite some fairly pedestrian statistics: 11 points, four assists and three rebounds.

Five players in the game scored more points than Budinger, including Durant who finished with a game-high 25. But it was Budinger who was right in the middle of things in the second half when the West team ripped off a 17-0 run en route to a 112-94 victory.

That run was highlighted by two plays in which Budinger triggered the fastbreak before delivering nifty passes that led to easy baskets. He also knocked down a three-pointer during the charge. Not once did he dunk, but he also didn't indulge in any of the gratuitous showmanship that the McDonald's Game has witnessed in recent years.

The big trick will be for Budinger to carry on his success at Arizona. He is looking forward to the opportunity to focus on one sport. During the summer, with the exception of a Junior Olympic volleyball tournament and the elite basketball camp in Tucson, there will be plenty of time to work with his personal trainer, Trent Suzuki, to build up his strength.

It's refreshing to hear his response to a question about what he most needed to work on for next season.

"My defense," he said, almost without hesitation. "I think I really need to concentrate and work on my defense. I need to get quicker, get stronger, and be a little smarter. I think I can be a good defender. I just have to put the effort in and work on it."

In this day and age, bravado trumps introspection and humility with most of the blue chip high school basketball players. Not many of them would even give lip service to their defensive inadequacies. But again, Budinger isn't your typical basketball phenom.

Whether he ever makes it to the "next, next level," that kind of attitude should ensure that this will not be the last you hear of Chase Budinger.