Budinger excited about homecoming

Chase Budinger is back in Tucson to be inducted into the Ring of Honor. Read on to see what he thinks of his induction, the current Arizona team, and more.

With the NBA lockout reaching its 112th day, former Arizona Wildcat and current Houston Rockets forward Chase Budinger is working hard while in wait-and-see mode as he waits to return to the NBA or possibly take his career overseas.

"With the lockout going on, I'm just working out every day and lifting weights and doing extra conditioning," Budinger said. "There are a few NBA guys down here in San Diego like Richard Jefferson, Jared Dudley, Kawhi Leonard, Deron Williams was down here before he left for Turkey, and Mo Williams as well, so we've been getting together and working out together.

"If the season gets cancelled, I will definitely be going overseas. I'm not worried about where just yet, once the season gets cancelled I'll start worrying about that."

While the owners and the players union continue to try to reach an agreement, Budinger will return to Tucson on Saturday; a homecoming he's certainly looking forward to.

"I'm really excited to come back, it's going to be a great event," Budinger said. "I'll have my family there, I'll have my buddies there, and I know a bunch of ex-Wildcats will be there too. It'll be one heck of a time."

Along with 2009 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Derrick Williams, Budinger, the 2007 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, will be placed into Arizona basketball's Ring of Honor in McKale Center. For Budinger, the opportunity to see his name go up in the rafters is a privilege he is excited to experience.

"The name explains itself, it's definitely an honor to be up there," Budinger said. "Especially when you look at all of the names of all of the great players that have come through Arizona, and how well all of those players have done in the NBA as well, it's a tremendous honor."

Despite being two years removed from the program for which he averaged 17 points and six rebounds over three seasons, Budinger does everything he can to keep an eye on the performance of his former squad.

"I try to watch them play as much as I can," Budinger said. "With my teammates there's always bets we have if one teammate's college is playing another teammate's college. I try to keep up as with them as much as I can. I definitely watched them through the whole tournament last year. I still know a couple guys on the team and I still keep in touch with them, guys like Kyle Fogg."

Budinger's career at Arizona, while successful, was marked by his having three different coaches in his three seasons with the program. He entered the NBA Draft after a junior season in which he received First Team All-Pac-10 honors and a year that saw his team reach the Sweet 16, and therefore never had the opportunity to play for Sean Miller.

Even though he is obviously a proud alumnus of the UA basketball program, Budinger will still admit he never saw Miller's early success coming.

"His success has been unbelievable," Budinger said. "I knew he was a great coach, I knew he would bring the program back to the top, but I did not think he would do it as fast as he did. It's unbelievable what he's been able to do in such a short amount of time. I can't wait to see what he's going to do with even more time."

Although his teams at UA did not make it as far as the 2010-11 squad, Budinger has nothing but great things to say when looking back on his time in Tucson.

"Just the life in college was great," Budinger said. "Being around your teammates and being a college kid, it's just one of those things in life you never get back again. You can only be it for a short period of time, and hanging out with your teammates and making new buddies and being outside of your parent's shadow for the first time, those are great memories for me.

"As far as basketball, I think the biggest memory for me was beating UCLA at home my junior year; it was a big game and it was a super fun game. Also just making it to the Sweet 16 with all of the people doubting us that year and not thinking we were going to make it that far."

With his names going up into the rafters at McKale Center, Budinger hopes that he can keep pace with other UA basketball greats who have gone on to do great things at the professional level.

"I hope the fans will still remember who I am years down the road," Budinger said. "Ultimately I hope I'm equal with all of the other names up there. That's the only thing I'm looking to try to keep with my name being up there, I'm trying to be equal with all of the other guys."

Joining the likes of Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, and Jason Gardner is not only an honor for Budinger, but he also knows that with it comes great responsibility to continue to keep the program's storied tradition going for future generations of Arizona basketball great.

"I feel like I'll be even more a part of the tradition," Budinger said. "I'll be one of the few players to be put up there. Me and the other guys that are up there are the top level of Arizona players, so we definitely have to represent the school as much as we can.

"I think we have, in college and the pros, and in terms of recruiting kids that are coming to Arizona to look at the school, to see those names up there and to see what we've accomplished, maybe they'll think they can be the next great one."

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