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Budinger’s support helps Fogg blossom

Citizen Staff Writer



There’s nothing like confidence and encouragement from a big brother.

Junior Chase Budinger has taken freshman Kyle Fogg under his wing. And the relationship – call it Arizona basketball’s version of the Odd Couple – is one of the reasons the Wildcats have won three straight games.

Fogg’s 15 points – including two key baskets during a 24-2 UA run – helped the Cats (14-8 overall) beat Washington State 66-56 at McKale Center on Saturday to move into sixth place in the Pac-10 at 4-5.

“From possibly redshirting to starting,” Budinger raved about Fogg as the two walked to UA’s locker room Saturday.

Budinger said it with the pride of older sibling. But that’s how he feels about the up-and-coming Fogg, whom few schools recruited until the last minute but who has become the feel-good story for the rejuvenated Wildcats.

“That’s my boy,” Budinger said. “He’s like my little kid.”

“Little brother,” Fogg retorted.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard from Brea, Calif., is averaging 15 points in the last three games.

“Like I said, I didn’t even think he’d play at the beginning of the year,” Budinger said. “I’m serious. His shot was off. He wasn’t that good. His defense was good, but he hadn’t gotten college basketball yet. He was passive.”

But Fogg started listening to Budinger and the coaches, absorbing information. He went from being “nervous every game” to being a savvy player.

“He’s made a huge leap,” Budinger said.

Even Fogg admitted, “I wasn’t that good.”

But he started to get better, just as he did every year at Brea’s Olinda High, where he averaged 24.9 points as a senior.

“Every year I improved so much,” he said. “It’s about working hard, and now it’s about making big jumps in games.”

UA interim coach Russ Pennell has seen something like this before, where an unknown player improves so much he becomes unbelievable.

His name? Scotty Pippen, a teammate of Pennell’s at Central Arkansas State. Not that Fogg’s situation is the same (Pippen was a different type of athlete). Pennell said Fogg is “a self-made guy.”

“He (Pippen) would do something every day, and you’d say (to yourself), ‘I didn’t know he could do that,’ ” Pennell said. “Kyle has the ability, but I’m not sure he had the experience. To me, he’s raw.”

But with the Fogg lifted, all of a sudden he is The Matrix, a double-digit offensive contributor and far ahead of the curve when it comes to UA’s most-improved players in the past 25 years.

Others who improved considerably include center A.J. Bramlett (Lute Olson’s all-time most improved player); Ivan Radenovic, the Serbian mid-year transfer; Channing Frye, the raw-but-work-hard Phoenician; and Jason Terry, a skinny, sometimes lost freshman.

Fogg, who scored 14 against Houston and 16 against Washington, went into Saturday’s game averaging just 5.8 points a game. The most combined points he had scored in three straight games so far this season was 24, going scoreless in the third.

“He’s very opportunistic,” Pennell said. “Any time we really need something positive to happen Kyle is in that mix. He’s got no fear. People appreciate that. Our guys seemed to be fueled by the plays he makes.”

Whether it is a steal, a driving layup or a wide-open jumper, Fogg has been there for the Cats. His aggressive drives to the basket in the second half Saturday led to a layup and a basket as the Wildcats caught and pulled away from WSU.

Fogg isn’t sure that would have happened earlier in the season, before Budinger stepped in.

“The confidence has been the big part,” Fogg said. “Chase has been real confident in me, and when I’m not hitting shots, they just tell me to keep shooting. Now I go to the basket and do whatever it takes.”

And in the process, making a big brother – Budinger – proud.

Budinger’s support helps freshman Fogg blossom


Thursday: UA (14-8, 4-5) at Oregon State (10-10, 4-5), 6:30 p.m., FSNA

Saturday: UA at Oregon (6-15, 0-9), 1:30 p.m., ABC

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