Smooth Operator

There is no secret that the Wildcats want Chase Budinger. They have made him a priority recruit and are pulling out all the stops to land the talented wing.

Wherever Chase Budinger played in Las Vegas, Lute Olson was there. Chase and the SoCal All-Stars could have played at 3:00 a.m. inside Area 51 and the Hall of Fame Wildcat coach would have found a way to watch them play.

Budinger put on a show in Las Vegas and did nothing to hurt his stock. If anything the Cats and the other pursuers are going to want the 6-7 wing even more.

With his curly mop top Budinger does not exactly look like a big time basketball player. Early scouting reports made him sound like he was a player who relied on his smarts and size to make plays. He drew comparisons to former San Diego area stars like Luke Walton and Jud Buechler. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Budinger is an athletic wing. He is deceptively smooth and has nice explosiveness. He can wow a crowd in transition with a highlight reel dunk and then drop a couple of pretty threes that hit nothing but the bottom of the net.

Despite rumors of Budinger trimming his list down to two teams, Budinger insists USC, UCLA and Arizona are all in the mix.

"Still the three," Budinger said.

Budinger has been tight lipped about his preferences. In most interviews he has claimed no real favorite. When Cat Tracks asked him if there was a leader, he gave us a slightly cryptic answer.

"I'd say so, maybe some lead over others," he said slyly.

However, when interviewed by's Tracy Pierson, Budinger tipped his hand for one of the first times in the recruiting process.

"Arizona, probably a little bit," he admitted.

As you can imagine, Budinger had good things to say about Arizona.

"I like their style of play," said Budinger. "Lute Olson, one of the greatest coaches. Always great players there, they are always in the top-25."

Some are surprised that USC is on the list. The Trojans are not exactly a basketball powerhouse and with the success of Pete Carroll's football squad, the basketball program is not even as popular as spring football. Tim Floyd is trying to change that perception around Los Angeles.

"They are a rebuilding team," Budinger said. "It is a great school, good education. I'd be able to play volleyball there also. I'd be able to play when I got there. I want to play once I get there as a freshman."

He feels that he will have a shot to play early wherever he goes, but thinks the best place to play right away is with the Trojans.

Another advantage the Trojans have is a family connection to the school.

"My dad went to USC but he is not pressuring me on any thing," Chase informed.

Some have speculated the UCLA is out, but Budinger disputes those claims. In fact, he has some nice things to say about the Bruins.

"They are on the rise right now," Chase said of the Bruins. "It's the same (as USC) with Volleyball and they are a great school and all of that."

Budinger is a big time volleyball prospect. In fact one thing keeping his stock from even being higher is that he has missed numerous AAU events to play club volleyball. Although he is an elite prospect in the sport, it will have only a small baring on where he plays collegiately.

"I decided that it is not that much of a factor," he said.

Arizona is the only one of the three finalists not to compete in D-I volleyball. The Cats have a club program that is among the nation's best, but he says that it is D-I or nothing. Playing at the club level is just "not worth it" in his opinion.

The only thing that has slowed Budinger down this summer is a broken wrist. He injured it at the NBA Players Camp and he was out of action until the Reebok Big Time Tournament.

"It's good," Budinger noted. "I would not say it is 100% but it is close. It's getting better every day."

The wrist knocked him out of the Arizona Elite camp. Despite not being able to play, Budinger still showed up and looked on as a number of top recruits and former Wildcat greats participated in the camp.

"It was cool," Budinger said. "Watching all the pros play. I wish I could have played with them."

The Cats let him know that they wanted him badly, but they did not put too much pressure on him.

Budinger indicated that he wants to make a decision sometime in August.

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