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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Star Budinger steps up leadership, conditioning”

    UA forward Chase Budinger attempts a leaner in Arizonas 77-74 win Feb. 10 at then-No. 13 Oregon. The Wildcats expect more performances this year like Budingers game against the Ducks, when he scored a team-high 30 points to lead the Wildcats to the upset.
    UA forward Chase Budinger attempts a leaner in Arizona’s 77-74 win Feb. 10 at then-No. 13 Oregon. The Wildcats expect more performances this year like Budinger’s game against the Ducks, when he scored a team-high 30 points to lead the Wildcats to the upset.

    UA head coach Lute Olson says that players often make their biggest jumps from their freshman to sophomore years.

    If that’s the case with sophomore forward Chase Budinger, the Pacific 10 Conference better heed that warning.

    After a year in which he averaged 15.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game to take home Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors, Budinger returns to an Arizona squad he can call his own.

    “”As a freshman you’re hit by a wall, and now I know what to expect,”” Budinger said. “”I know how the season’s going to be. I feel a lot more confident with myself to play a whole season, be healthy, to not worry about the middle part or the end part of the season.””

    Budinger admitted that he “”kind of hit a wall”” at the end of last year, leading to a pair of four-point games and a seven-point effort down the stretch. So Budinger suffered

    Highlights of Budinger’s fabulous freshman season

    Pacific 10 Conference Freshman of the Year

    Collegehoops.net and Rivals.com second- team Freshman All-America

    Second-team NABC All-District 15

    Averaged 15.6 points per game (second on the team) on 48.5 percent shooting to go with 5.8 rebounds per game

    Scored 484 points, the fifth-highest freshman total in school history, with only Sean Elliott and Gilbert Arenas scoring more in the Lute Olson era
    Led the team with 50 3-pointers

    through grueling conditioning exercises in his hometown of Encinitas, Calif., with noted trainer Trent Suzuki to make himself physically and mentally prepared for this year’s grind.

    Budinger said he now feels stronger, in better shape and not as fatigued. He said that at times last year, he would feel beat up after practice and would be sore the next day.

    Now he’s surprised how well his body feels when we wakes up, something he attributes to his offseason workouts.

    On top of that, Budinger actually feels healthy to begin the season, unlike last year when he came down with a bout of tonsillitis early in the fall semester and sprained his ankle a few times for good measure at the beginning of the year.

    “”I feel a lot better, calmer, confident,”” Budinger said. “”I’m just real excited. I think this team is a great team right now. We’re getting better, we’re pushing each other every day and it’s going to be a fun season.””

    Expectations will be high for Budinger, an expected NBA

    lottery pick next year who has been named to the John R. Wooden Award preseason All-American team, earned a spot on the 50-man Naismith Trophy preseason watch list and was tabbed a preseason First-Team All-American by Collegehoops.net.

    As Arizona’s only returning player to average double figures last season, it’s not a big surprise that UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill would call Budinger a go-to guy for the Wildcats. After all, Budinger possesses a picture-perfect jumper that he honed over the summer, a 40-inch vertical jump and a solid post-up game.

    O’Neill – a college head coach for 11 years – said he has never had a player with Budinger’s talent as a head man.

    “”He’s got size, he can score, he’s got a real high level of skill, both with and without the ball, and Chase knows this,”” O’Neill said.

    “”He’s a guy we should be going to at the end of games.””

    He may be only 19, but Budinger has the responsibility on his shoulders of being one of Arizona’s leaders, along with senior guard Jawann McClellan.

    “”He’s definitely more vocal than he was last year,”” said forward Bret Brielmaier. “”Last year, he was kind of more laidback, never really had the – call it the guts or whatever, to come out and question somebody if he doesn’t like what he’s doing, but now he’s talking to everyone, making sure everyone’s on the same page, making sure everyone is understanding what they need to be doing.””

    Having experienced a year as one of the key guys in Arizona’s lineup, Budinger might be able to see things on the court that he would not have a year ago, recognizing something that a freshman would not, Olson said.

    “”I’ve got a year under my belt, so I know what to expect this year,”” Budinger said, “”and I’m just trying to teach the freshmen, just trying to show them the ropes, trying to tell them what to expect in the season and just trying to be one of the go-to guys on the team.””

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