Former Arizona Wildcats basketball player Chase Budinger made his pro volleyball debut over the weekend as he waits out the NBA lockout.
He and partner Dane Jensen were eliminated in the second round of the Corona Light Wide Open tournament at Hermosa Beach, Calif.
“We were competitive,” Budinger told the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “And I thought we had a good crowd, too, so that was pretty exciting. We competed very well, but I just wished we had been able to finish better.”
Budinger, who was the 2006 Mizuno national high school volleyball player of the year, has spent the past two seasons with the Houston Rockets, averaging 9.4 points per game.
Budinger last week talked with J. Michael Falgoust of USA Today, our Gannett big brother. Here is that Q&A:
So if the lockout lasts the entire season, will you stick with volleyball?
Yes. If I don’t go play in Europe then it’s definitely what I’ll be doing. I love volleyball. It’s great cross training for my basketball. It’s great competition as well. … This gives me a chance during the lockout to go do something that I love as well.
Who is the best you’ve played against in volleyball, and how do your skills compare?
Matt Olson is a really good player that I’ve played against him here in San Diego. I could definitely compete against him. I’m very competitive. That’s how I view this tournament is going to be. I’m not going to be some guy where teams are going to want to play against our team because it’s going to be an easy game. I believe we have a good shot to get far in the tournament.
This is serious competition for you, not just something to keep you busy or in shape?
I want to do well. I think we can. I’ve got a great partner. The only problem is we just got together (a week ago) so we haven’t trained much together. That’s the tough part. As far as our level, we’re both great players.
How likely are you to play basketball overseas?
I feel it’s a strong possibility. I’ve shown a lot of interest. I’m willing to go over there and play … different countries like Spain or Russia. Nothing is set in stone yet. He (agent Bill Duffy) has told me of places that have shown interest.
Have you been playing basketball too?
I’ve been working out every day, getting in the weight room, lifting, working on my skills basketball-wise and playing pickup with the guys last week. There’s Mo Williams, Deron Williams, Richard Jefferson, so we got a nice crew we can play pickup with to stay in shape and keep playing basketball.
If the NBA doesn’t play this year, do you think it would hurt your progress?
It might hurt a little bit to lose the whole season because during the season that’s where you grow the most. That’s going to hurt everybody out there. I know how to stay in shape and keep working out and keep working on my game.
Did you get a chance to talk to coach Kevin McHale before the lockout?
I was able to get back to Houston and work out right before the lockout happened and sit down and talk with him. Had him work me out a bit. He seemed like a great coach. He loves to teach people. I’m excited to get back there for him to help me with my game.
You got a lot of playing time late last season. Where did you improve the most?
I was being more aggressive and attacking the rim, getting to the free throw line. Everybody knows I can shoot the ball.