Chase Budinger is still a pro, just not in the sport you’re accustomed to seeing him.
After seven seasons, the 6-foot-7 wing fizzled out of the NBA, played last year in Spain and vanished from the basketball consciousness before surprisingly showing up on the beach, where professional volleyball player and two-time U.S. Olympian Sean Rosenthal recently pegged him to be his partner.
Named the 2006 national prep volleyball player of the year by Mizuno, Budinger starred at California’s La Costa Canyon High, leading his team to three straight San Diego Section Division I championships.
Also California’s Mr. Basketball during his senior year in high school, Budinger chose basketball at the University of Arizona, where he emerged as an NBA prospect. The Houston Rockets traded for the right to select him midway through the second round of the 2009 draft, and he blossomed as an athletic wing with 3-point shooting skills. He nearly won the 2012 dunk contest against Jeremy Evans.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, Budinger dusted off his spiking skills, playing professionally at the American Wide Open beach volleyball tournament. His brother, Duncan, is a professional beach volleyball player, and the two have been seen competing on the amateur circuit in Manhattan Beach.
Budinger last played in the NBA for the Phoenix Suns, averaging a career-low 3.2 points over the final 17 games of 2016. He averaged 6.8 points for Baskonia in Spain in 2016-17 before sitting out this year.
Rosenthal, listed as the fifth-best beach volleyball player on the AVP rankings, recently split from playing partner Trevor Crabb. The 36-year-old’s endorsement of Budinger is impressive, considering Rosenthal has 12 AVP victories and another 10 international victories to his name. He and former partner Jake Gibb participated in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, finishing fifth both times.
All I know is Chase Budinger is an awesome beach volleyball name, and he has the hair for it.
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