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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cats have strong freshmen class

    Freshman Chase Budinger looks for an opening during the first half of Arizonas exhibition game against Victoria Nov. 11 in McKale Center The Carlsbad, Calif. native opened the season against Virginia in the starting lineup and scored 17 points.
    Freshman Chase Budinger looks for an opening during the first half of Arizona’s exhibition game against Victoria Nov. 11 in McKale Center The Carlsbad, Calif. native opened the season against Virginia in the starting lineup and scored 17 points.

    In years past, the best high school players in the nation spurned college basketball to skip right to the NBA.

    With the NBA requiring these top athletes to play at least one year in college, that means top players like UA freshman Chase Budinger will showcase their talents with the top programs in the country.

    Budinger, the No. 4 overall player in the nation, according to the recruiting Web site, leads a three-player class ranked No. 23 nationally all of whom UA head coach Lute Olson said play great team basketball.

    The class also includes three-star recruits Nic Wise and Jordan Hill, but it all starts with the forward Budinger.

    “”He’s a team guy,”” Olson said of the 6-foot-7 native of Carlsbad, Calif. “”If you asked him whether he’d rather score a bucket or make an assist, I’m convinced he’d tell you he’d rather make the assist. What a great example.””

    Budinger, who earned co-MVP honors of the McDonald’s All-American Game, finds himself in Arizona’s starting lineup to begin the year as the Wildcats go with a small lineup that includes three wings and just one player over 6-foot-7.

    He said he hopes to make a contribution similar to what forward Marcus Williams did last year as a freshman, when Williams made the Pacific 10 Conference All-Freshman Team and averaged 13.0 points per game, second on the team.

    “”That’s the goal, just come in here and try to make as big of an impact as I can,”” Budinger said. “”The impact I want to make is us winning ballgames, going 32-0.””

    Olson said Budinger can play wherever the Wildcats need him with his incredible athleticism and soft shooting touch, although he’s best suited for a spot on the wing. Olson added that Budinger’s biggest adjustments will come in guarding quicker players and not getting uncontested shots like he did at times in high school, both of which he’s worked on in practice sessions with Williams.

    “”What a great opportunity to improve coming out here every day,”” Olson said. “”Chase is a great player, and Marcus is a great player. It’s a real challenge. It makes it tough.””

    Although Budinger appears to have a spot in Olson’s eight-man rotation locked up, Wise and Hill have used the practices and exhibitions to make their case for playing time.

    Wise appears to have won a spot as a backup guard in Olson’s eight-man rotation, and Hill is battling senior center Kirk Walters for the role of first big man off the bench in the rotation.

    Freshmen Phenoms?

    Chase Budinger

    • Earned co-MVP honors at the McDonald’s All-American game
    • 2006 Mizuno national volleyball Player of the Year
    • California’s Gatorade State Athlete of the Year
    • MVP of the Nike Junior World Championships.
    • Averaged 34 points, 11 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3 steals as a senior
    • Rated as the No. 7 prospect in the nation and No. 2 small forward by Bob Gibbons’ All-Star Sports Top 100

    Nic Wise

    • Guided Kingwood High School to a 131-23 (.851) record in high school, more wins than any other player in Texas Class 5A history.
    • Ranked the No. 26 prospect, No. 4 among point guards, by Bob Gibbons’ All-Star Sports Top 100″”
    • Averaged 19 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals per game as a senior
    • Attended the same school as UA assistant coach Josh Pastner.

    Jordan Hill

    • Helped high school squad to a 43-4 record as a senior.
    • Rated the No. 86 prospect and No. 11 power forward by
    • Averaged 16.4 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.2 blocks for his AAU team last summer
    • As a junior, did not play organized

    Wise, a 5-foot-9 guard in the mold of former UA point guard Jason Gardner, has shown an impressive shooting touch, especially from behind the arc, and a penchant for winning, going 131-23 on his way to winning a Texas Class 5A state championship in high school and compiling the most wins of any player in Texas 5A history.

    “”I think I pretty much have already established that (winning attitude) in practice and stuff because a lot of time my team is the one that wins, and coach O sees that,”” Wise said. “”Hopefully that will continue over to the floor when I’m in the game.””

    Said Williams, (He’s) “”one of our best I would say as far as being a winner.””

    Olson said Wise has had trouble with turnovers, sometimes getting into situations he could get out of with his dribbling skills in high school but can’t in college due to the quickness of collegiate athletes, but like Budinger, Wise is all about team.

    As for the Gardner comparison?

    “”I like it in one sense because he got his name in the rafters and everything, he got records here, stuff like that, but I pretty much like to be my own person,”” Wise said.

    Hill is the enigma of the class, a 6-foot-9 forward still learning the game who flew under the radar before playing well at an AAU tournament and subsequently being offered a scholarship by Arizona.

    Although his offensive game consists mainly of dunking and shots in the paint, he has been a force rebounding and blocking shots in practice sessions. He worked on his game over the summer as the only Wildcat who consistently played nearly every week in the Tucson Summer Pro League, sometimes dominating and other times seemingly playing down to his competition.

    Olson complimented Hill’s timing on rebounding and shot blocking and said that in the 10 practices before Arizona’s trip to Canada at the start of the school year, Hill was the squad’s leader in rebounding, shot blocking and shooting percentage.

    “”Jordan, he’s been the biggest surprise here,”” Williams said. “”He’s a big man with a lot of range. He likes to dunk everything.””

    Hill very well could be a key to this season, providing the interior presence this squad badly needs off the bench, or the 211-pounder may need time to work on his body and his game before making a major contribution.

    The trio, who live together in Villa del Puente – Hill and Wise as roommates and Budinger across the hall rooming with a friend from home – spend much of their time together, both on the practice court and in school where they share a few classes.

    “”We’ve come together real good,”” Hill said. “”We chill every day when we come home, play games. On and off the court, we’ve really clicked. Off the court, we worry about basketball, but we just want to have fun.””

    In all in their freshmen class the Wildcats have an athletic star wing in Budinger who has NBA written all over him, the only question being when, a diminutive point guard known for winning games and an athletic big man who could grow into a quality frontcourt player.

    “”We’re very, very pleased with our three freshmen,”” Olson said. “”I like their attitude on the court (and) off the court.””

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