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The Daily Wildcat

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Former Wildcat Budinger honored at Red-Blue Game

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Daily Wildcat Arizona WIldcats Mens Basketball Red and Blue McKale Saturday, October 22, 2011

Former Arizona forwards Chase Budinger and Derrick Williams were inducted into Arizona’s Ring of Honor at the Red-Blue Game on Saturday. With a slew of NBA players in town — not to mention Williams’ help in reviving the program — Budinger’s impact is often forgotten.

Budinger was a highly touted, high-flying McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school. In three years playing for the Wildcats, he averaged 17 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.9 3-pointers made per game.

The current Houston Rockets forward said he was humbled by Arizona’s decision to retire his number and induct him into the Ring of Honor.

“It’s a big honor just sitting here and looking up at all the names here before me,” Budinger said. “It’s one heck of a group of guys, and just to be mentioned with all those guys that have already been up there is a huge honor.”

The best part about his weekend in Tucson was reuniting not only with some of his former teammates, but also with other former Wildcats.

“It’s a brotherhood,” Budinger said. “It’s good seeing these guys come back to catch up with them and talk about old memories.

“We’re a family and (former) coach (Lute) Olson did a great job for 20-something years he was here of creating that, and Sean Miller is doing a great job as well.”

While Budinger was pleased with the way current head coach Sean Miller was able to gather all the players together, he’s even more impressed with how quickly Miller has been able to turn around the basketball program.

“I knew he was a good coach. He did a great job over there at Xavier, and I was happy he came over here, and I was very surprised at how fast he turned this program around,” Budinger said. “He’s doing a heck of a job … You saw last year how far they went in the tournament and they are going to keep doing it. Arizona is back.”

Budinger was a top-scorer for the Wildcats while in college, and before he left Arizona for the NBA after his junior season, he left a mark on Tucson. Since then, he has become a solid role player for the Rockets, playing alongside fellow former Wildcat Jordan Hill, who was also in attendance on Saturday.

The rapport developed between Hill and Budinger when they were Wildcats, and that helped the duo out at the pro level, according to Budinger.

“It’s been a blessing for us two to be together. What are the odds of two college players being on the same NBA team?” Budinger said. “It’s great for both of us just because we know each other so well. We know how to play with each other and where to get each other the ball.”

In two seasons with Houston, Budinger has averaged 9.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 3-pointers made per game. The NBA is currently in a lockout, so Budinger has been working out in California, keeping prepared in case the season starts up soon.

Until then, Budinger was just enjoying his time in Tucson.

“It feels good, it’s fun,” he said. “Especially when all the fans were in the stadium.”

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