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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Chase Budinger now a ‘completely different player’

    UA sophomore Chase Budinger addresses the media before this seasons first round of the NCAA Tournament. Questions regarding Budingers decision to enter the NBA draft still loom.
    UA sophomore Chase Budinger addresses the media before this season’s first round of the NCAA Tournament. Questions regarding Budinger’s decision to enter the NBA draft still loom.

    Forward Chase Budinger earned an immense amount of popularity and attention during his first two seasons as a Wildcat. Around campus and throughout the Pacific 10 Conference, college basketball enthusiasts recognized the Encinitas, Calif., native as Arizona’s signature blond 6-foot-7, 203-pound men’s basketball player.

    An always well-spoken and respectful Budinger used his incredible natural athleticism to produce a dynamic all-around game and earn conference freshman-of-the-year honors after the 2006-07 season.

    Ever since, the national spotlight has gradually illuminated on the potential NBA lottery pick, prompting the debate as to when he’ll be ready. Today, as the mounting anticipation shines brighter and brighter, Budinger sits on the brink of making the tough decision whether to give up two years of college eligibility or turn pro.

    Budinger stalled this spring’s definite decision by testing the NBA Draft waters and participating in pre-draft workouts, rather than immediately losing eligibility by signing an agent after losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament again.

    A patient Budinger and his family await feedback from NBA general managers and coaches throughout his workouts. But a not-so-patient fan base begs the burning question: will he stay or go?

    The deadline to decide, June 16, is less than three weeks away. But for now, one thing remains certain about Budinger’s NBA future: his popularity and attention has spread quick and far beyond Tucson.

    “”The good news is there are 30 teams in the NBA and all 30 have asked Chase for a workout,”” said his father, Duncan Budinger. “”Something’s going on there. Obviously they’ve seen him play and they’re interested.””

    They’re interested, like much of the Wildcat faithful in Chase’s every move. From his pre-draft training to feedback from NBA general managers, every detail and new development helps Duncan and Chase receive a better outlook regarding the big decision.

    Between understanding the draft, evaluation and tryout processes, Duncan and Chase have developed a new understanding of correct training and intense focus.

    Since losing to West Virginia 75-65 in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament in Washington, D.C., Chase began devoting himself to getting within the top 20 of the draft based on opinions and feedback from pre-draft camps.

    Now after weeks of rigorous training, Budinger has upgraded to faster footwork, higher jumping and “”right on”” shooting, Duncan said. Not to mention the fact that Chase now weighs and plays 16 pounds heavier at 219.

    “”I was just watching a tape of him in the Kansas and Memphis game. Looking at him in those two games and looking back at the last time I saw him at his workout – he’s a complete, different player,”” said Duncan in a telephone interview with the Daily Wildcat. “”Completely different player. And that’s all due to the fact that Chase has been able to concentrate on his body and his basketball workouts. It’s made him faster, quicker, stronger and bigger.

    “”It’s all in the attitude,”” Duncan added. “”His attitude has been, since the season ended, is get bigger, get stronger, work on the parts of his game he needs to work on and look forward taking it on the road and showing the right people.””

    Experiencing the process for the first time, both Duncan and Chase are adapting to the protocol many lottery hopefuls take.

    Two days after UA freshman Jerryd Bayless – a projected lottery lock – hired his agent, Chase opted to take the safer route in fear his stock could drop to the second round. He told UA head coach Lute Olson on May 7 about his decision to test the draft waters and set his benchmark to leave at the 20th pick or better.

    “”It’s been an education,”” Duncan said. “”It’s been fast and furious, but nothing we haven’t been able to handle.””

    With a deeply talented draft this summer – highlighted by a stellar freshman class – coverage and speculation can vary across web sites and networks that cover mock drafts. And since Chase still has a decision to make based on whether NBA camps think he’ll be a top 20 pick, said Duncan, it’s hard not to read the media analysis.

    Like the Wildcats’ bubble status last March Madness, Chase sits on the fence. In today’s updated mock drafts, Chase currently sits 13th at SI.com, 17th at Collegehoops.net, 19th at Draftexpress.com and 21st at ESPN.com.

    “”If it’s in front of you can’t help but notice and read it,”” Duncan said. “”The reality is, none of those guys make any of those decisions. I sometimes wonder, again, when you read the ESPNs and others, how they’re coming up with their lists, their criteria. In my mind it really doesn’t matter.

    “”The decisions are made by the coaches, GMs and owners,”” Ducan added. “”The feedback we’re getting from a lot of those people is that they can’t wait to see Chase.””

    Chase independently keeps his focus by training at the Home Depot Center, a sports complex located in Carson, Calif., with the “”Kevin Loves of the world,”” Duncan said, while living alone in a southern California apartment.

    While the strenuous training can get lonely, Chase has trained, hung out and spent time with his older brother Duncan Jr., now back from playing professional volleyball in Germany, Duncan said.

    Since the NBA lottery selection on May 20, both Duncan and Chase have evaluated particular teams from the seventh to 17th picks – LA Clippers (7), Sacramento (12), Golden State (14), Phoenix (15) and Toronto (17) – and determined the needs of each.

    “”They all have a need to have somebody who can shoot the ball and get to the hoop,”” Duncan said. “”Most teams need that. When you talk about looking at teams in particular, it’s really working at what teams have what needs in each position, and where do they fit in the picking order.””

    An off-season of coaching turnover left some recruits uncertain about the future of Arizona basketball; all three assistants – Kevin O’Neill, Josh Pastner and Miles Simon – left the program within a six week span.

    Olson hired three new assistants, Mike Dunlap, Russ Pennell and Reggie Geary to once again stabilize and rebuild his program.

    In the case of Chase’s option to return for his junior season, though, he remains unfazed by the changes on staff.

    Dunlap visited and Olson spoke with the Budinger family several times with nothing but support in Chase’s future decision. Regardless, Duncan still believes next year “”will be back to Arizona basketball.””

    “”The coaching situation, other than we appreciate their support, really hasn’t played in,”” Duncan said. “”You have to go into these type things with the mindset, saying you’re committed 100 percent. You can’t go forward into a career in the NBA with doubts.

    “”You have to go out there with 100 (percent) commitment if you’re going to have an opportunity at it,”” he added.

    On his upcoming agenda, Chase has additional training this weekend at another facility that Duncan could not specify.

    He’ll be taking next Tuesday off, then participate in his first private workout on June 4 – the first chance draft hopefuls are allowed. Every two days from that point onward includes more private workouts, beginning on the east and working his way back to the west coast, all leading up to decision time on June 16.

    “”We’ll convene, get together as a family,”” Duncan said. “”Chase has always been one to discuss things. It’s still ultimately his decision.

    “”I can’t tell you for sure,”” he added, “”what he’s feeling inside all the time – he’s his own man.””

    His own man, on the brink of controlling his own destiny.

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