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Rivera: Budinger likely gone

UA junior has until Monday to decide future

"It's an exciting time doing the (NBA) workouts but at the same time it's nerve-racking,'' said Arizona's Chase Budinger, who talks with Suns President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Steve Kerr after a pre-draft workout Thursday at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

"It's an exciting time doing the (NBA) workouts but at the same time it's nerve-racking,'' said Arizona's Chase Budinger, who talks with Suns President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Steve Kerr after a pre-draft workout Thursday at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

PHOENIX – Chase Budinger is willing to admit publicly that getting ready for the NBA has been “stressful at times.”

He isn’t willing to admit whether he’s made up his mind about coming back to Arizona for his junior season.”

He’s not even willing to say which way he’s leaning.

Deep down, you can get a sense he knows what he’s going to do. My sense is that he’s gone.

He has to make his decision public by Monday morning.

“It’s an exciting time doing the (NBA) workouts, but at the same time it’s nerve-racking,” he said.

UA players flirting with the NBA is nothing new. UA fans will have to go through the suspense next year when, and if, star guard Brandon Jennings qualifies academically by this fall. Ditto for Jordan Hill, who will be a junior next season.

It’s the way it is these days. And realistically when the 6-foot-7 Budinger came to UA, the thought was that he would be here only two years.

His sophomore year wasn’t always smooth sailing. He struggled in a halfcourt offensive set and struggled on defense at times.

It was obvious that it was hard for him under the tough-love approach of former interim coach Kevin O’Neill.

After all, he picked UA because of Lute Olson. The Hall of Fame coach was out last season for personal medical reasons.

“I play better in that type of system,” Budinger said, of Olson’s up-tempo game.

Olson is back and told the Citizen last week that he thinks Budinger should return because he’ll have a very good season in the fast-paced style.

That would lead to him likely going higher in the draft after next season.

Budinger said Olson has e-mailed him a number of times, putting “information in my head to come back” and “recruiting him all over again.”

Will that be enough?

“All I can say on my two years at Arizona is it (was) a great experience,” Budinger said. “A great time there; it’s a great school.

“It was a little shaky from the first year to the second year and the whole coaching changes. In the end it taught me a good lesson. I was able to adjust to two different coaches but that’s going most likely to happen in the NBA (because) you go through a whole bunch of coaching changes, as well.

“You have to adjust to that. (Being) at Arizona really helped me.”

Don’t read too much into the tone of his words and talking about the school like it’s in his rearview mirror.

He said he was just talking about his time at UA – so far.

That said, he feels everything he’s heard from the NBA teams is that he has a chance to go in the top 21, and if that happens “in my mind I think that’s good enough” to stay in the draft. He says he’s done “real well for myself” in his three other workouts, too.

He added that if he were hearing that he’d be a second-round pick “I’d most likely come back.”

He said he still has six NBA workouts left, one of which will be Saturday with Golden State. If he stays in the draft, he’ll do the other five.

He says he’ll have input from his family, but it’s “mostly up to me.”

His future, however, will be up to those who think he’s ready to be in the NBA come the fall.

Suns president Steve Kerr, a former UA star, didn’t talk specifics about Budinger’s workout with Phoenix. He said Budinger is a “a great guy and good teammate.”

Kerr added that Budinger, although it was tough because of the circumstances of last season, may have benefited because it allowed him to play more than one style.

Phoenix’s Dave Griffin, vice president of basketball operations, said he liked Budinger’s workout, but also said it’s a very deep draft.

“Nobody has a clue (what will happen) because it is so deep,” said Griffin, whose Suns have the 15th pick. “You could easily think you’re a 15 pick and go 31st.”

Griffin said it was his impression that Budinger still isn’t sure what he’s going to do but that he does “have a tough call.”

Griffin said the Suns watched Budinger a number of times the last couple of years, saying he “has a chance to be very, very good if he stays (in school) and a good chance of being a late-round pick if he comes (out).”

Griffin said Budinger’s athletic ability is obvious.

“He makes much stronger cuts on the court now and is attacking the rim much more,” Griffin said. “He’s getting more elevation on his jump shot.

“He’s learning how to parlay all that natural pop that he has into the game of basketball. You can see that it’s coming.”

Griffin added that he feels Budinger has received “a bum rap of not competing” hard.

“I think he can do that,” Griffin said. “I think he’s a young player and just doesn’t know how to do that in the confines of the game.

“He has such an unbelievable volleyball background that I know he knows how to (compete) in that game. I think it’s going to come for him.”

Griffin said he feels Budinger’s defense is getting better.

“I don’t think it’s a liability at all,” he said. “He’s not incapable of being good at it. He just hasn’t gotten that far in his development.”

Budinger will soon determine where that development will come next season – UA or the NBA.

Steve Rivera’s e-mail: srivera@tucsoncitizen.com

Suns head coach Terry Porter talks to players (from left) Lee Cummard, Curtis Terry, Joe Alexander, Maarty Leunen, Nicolas Batum and Chase Budinger on Thursday.

Suns head coach Terry Porter talks to players (from left) Lee Cummard, Curtis Terry, Joe Alexander, Maarty Leunen, Nicolas Batum and Chase Budinger on Thursday.

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OFF TO THE NBA?

Where some mock drafts have UA sophomore Chase Budinger headed in this month’s NBA draft

Collegehoops.net – 17 (Toronto)

ESPN.com – 21 (New Jersey)

SI.com – 13 (Portland)

Draftexpress.com – 22 (Orlando)

RealGM.com – 22 (Orlando)

Hoopsworld.com – 19 (Cleveland)

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