Arizona coach Lute Olson could feel the sense of relief Chase Budinger had in deciding he’d stay at the University of Arizona for his junior season.
“It was like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders,” Olson said.
It was good news for Arizona basketball for a change. Enough to prompt a thumbs-up from Olson as he headed back to his annual basketball camp at McKale Center on Monday afternoon.
About 90 minutes earlier he had spoken to Budinger, UA’s 6-foot-7 standout forward, getting the news he was coming back for his junior season.
Olson admitted he had landed his best recruit for next season and that the coaching staff was “elated.”
“Selfishly, I feel it was the right decision,” Olson said. “I’ve been through this (players in the draft) a lot of times and there’s no question Chase’s position a year from now will be a great position for him.”
Olson predicted a top-10 selection next June.
It’s not clear what prompted Budinger’s return. Last week he said if he felt he’d be a second round pick, he’d “likely” be back.
He said if he continued to hear he was a top 21 or higher pick, he’d head to the NBA.
“The opportunity to play again for coach Olson in my mind best prepares me to have a successful NBA career,” Budinger said in a statement released by UA. “I want to enter the NBA with great certainty of my future potential and believe the chance to develop further under coach Olson enhances that opportunity.”
Olson said all he knew was that Budinger had had good workouts recently, including Saturday with Golden State. Budinger worked out on Monday morning in Sacramento, but it’s not clear how it went.
He had six workouts for NBA teams.
Olson recently told the Citizen he thought it would be “ridiculous” for Budinger to leave because he’d have better marketability next season when he’d be a higher draft pick. He said the same thing on Monday.
“Personally, I think it would have been silly for him to come out and be in the 20s,” Olson said.
Budinger could not be reached. His father, Duncan, has not returned calls in the past three weeks.
In saying he was coming back, Budinger asked one thing: “That we’ll have fun,” Olson said.
Olson’s response was easy: “I guarantee we’ll have fun.”
Olson didn’t coach last year because of a personal medical leave. He said his run-and-stun style will be back this year.
Budinger struggled at times under tough interim coach Kevin O’Neill and his halfcourt style, although he still averaged 17.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
“I want him to remember how it was when he was freshman of the year (in the Pac-10), playing in that style,” Olson said.
Olson said Budinger’s decision “was nothing you could relax on,” although he felt good on Monday morning and early afternoon because the two had spoken at length the night before.
Still, there was no indication what Budinger was going to do.
“The fact that he called was a definite plus,” Olson said.
Olson figured Budinger would not have called if he had made up his mind to leave. Last week, Budinger said he had been getting e-mails from Olson with plenty of information about his future. Budinger said it felt like he was being recruited all over again.
Olson said he sent his last text message to Budinger on Saturday, but said Budinger needed to make the decision that was right for him and not anyone else.
After hearing Budinger was coming back and the relief that it brought, Olson suggested Budinger head to the beach, play a little volleyball and relax.
“It has been a stressful time,” Olson said.
For all involved.
PROJECTED UA LINEUP
Pos. Player Cl.
G Brandon Jennings* Fr.
G Nic Wise Jr.
F Chase Budinger Jr.
F Jamelle Horne So.
C Jordan Hill Jr.
OFF THE BENCH
F Fendi Onobun Sr.
C Jeff Withey Fr.
F Zane Johnson So.
C Alex Jacobson Fr.
G Brendon Lavender Fr.
* Must still qualify through NCAA