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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Budinger, Shakur fighting for roster spots in NBA Summer League”

    LAS VEGAS, Nev. – It was just three years ago that former Wildcat Chase Budinger shared the McDonald’s All American MVP with Kevin Durant in his hometown of San Diego, Calif.

    Enamored by his shooting ability and 40-inch vertical leap, many scouts had him as a lottery pick lock whenever he decided to enter the NBA draft out of Arizona. After a stellar freshman year the forward seemingly proved them right but decided to return for his sophomore season to improve his stock.

    Three years and three coaches later, his first round dreams faded quickly when Detroit used their second round pick and chose Budinger 44th overall. They then traded the silky-smooth wing to the Houston Rockets for a second round pick and cash considerations.

    In the coming months the ex-Wildcat will be fighting for a roster spot as second round draft picks are not guaranteed to be on the roster come opening night.

    “”I’m willing to do whatever they want me to do,”” Budinger said of his plans in the next few months, hoping to stick on the Rockets’ roster. “”If it means going back to Houston or getting some time off, it’s going to be whatever the team wants.””

    Budinger began his journey Friday, making his NBA debut at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nev. Though it was only the summer league, the Rockets’ forward couldn’t fight the first game jitters. It showed in the first half when he missed a wide-open breakaway lay-up. He finished his NBA debut with 11 points, two assists and two rebounds in a sub-par showing.

    Budinger appeared to be more in rhythm on Saturday’s day two of the summer league. He showed off his shooting ability by draining 9-10 from the field and ended the game with 25 points.

    “”I was more comfortable today; my last game I had some jitters because it was my first NBA game,”” Budinger said after his second game. “”I’m more comfortable playing with these guys, and I should get better with each game.””

    The Rockets, a team that forced the NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers to Game 7 of the Western conference semi-finals, rely upon their toughness and defense. Ironically, the knock on Budinger throughout his career at Arizona was that he wasn’t tough enough and didn’t play defense.

    “”Right now, defensively I need to know the spacing and know what the other team is trying to do,”” Budinger said. “”I made mistakes where they would suck me in and my guy would

    be wide open, that’s something I have to get better at.””

    Though some may question whether he can make a team that has a defensive mentality, one of Budinger’s former teammates thinks otherwise.

    “”I would tell Chase to be himself; they’re looking for a guy like himself,”” said former UA point guard Mustafa Shakur, who is playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer league. “”He’s a guy they’re looking for who can shoot the spot-up jumper in the corner and on the wing, which he does well.””

    “”With (Rockets’ point guard) Aaron Brooks penetrating, he would be a great guy, and he would take some pressure off T-Mac when he returns,”” he added. “”He just needs to be himself, and everything will take care of itself.””

    Shakur learning, finding way

    Shakur is also trying to work his way into the NBA after playing in the Euroleague with Prokom Trefl Sopot in Poland in 2007-2008 and Panellinios Athens in Greece this past season.

    After his senior season at UA, Shakur went undrafted in the 2007 NBA Draft but was signed by the Sacramento Kings. Before the start of the NBA season, he was cut before he could play in a regular season game.

    Now with the Lakers – who are loaded at the point guard position with Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar – it is highly unlikely Shakur will make the Lakers regular-season roster. Therefore, his summer league experience may be simply an opportunity for him to impress other teams and hone his skills.

    “”I feel pretty good with the way I’ve played thus far,”” said Shakur after the Lakers’ win against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. “”It’s been a big adjustment playing in the Lakers’ system, being a point guard I’m used to playing in more spread open offenses.””

    The Lakers’ triangle offense has been known to be complex for players who are new to the system, but Shakur has found a way to benefit from it considering he’s only had a few weeks to learn it.

    “”Learning the system has been really good for me because I’ve learned to play without the ball,”” he said. “”It makes you have to play off your teammates, especially off the big guys. I think I’m going to learn a lot from the triangle offense.””

    Olson’s presence felt in NBA Summer League

    With Budinger and Shakur representing Arizona in the first weekend of the Las Vegas Summer League, other former Wildcats will see the court when more teams enter play. Jordan Hill (New York Knicks), Salim Stoudamire (Milwaukee Bucks), Chris Rogers (Phoenix Suns), assistant coach Damon Stoudamire (Memphis Grizzlies) and 2008 Las Vegas Summer League MVP Jerryd Bayless (Portland Trail Blazers) all hail from the UA program and were once recruited by Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson.

    “”I saw Salim (Stoudamire) yesterday, we got Damon (Stoudamire) coaching now,”” said Shakur. “”I’m sure it’ll be like old times when I see the guys.””

    Only Jerryd Bayless didn’t get a chance to learn from the Hall of Fame coach as he played his freshman season under interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. Shakur, who started at point guard for four years under the legend, plans to attend Olson’s celebratory ceremony at McKale Memorial Center on August 8, barring any obligations that would not allow it.

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