Budinger was not only named to the McDonald's All-American game, but he was named co-MVP. To make things even more special, Budinger got to play the elite game in front of his hometown fans at San Diego's Cox Pavilion.
Life was good for Budinger. Instead of coming to Tucson for the summer, he decided to compete internationally…in BOTH basketball and volleyball. That's right, Budinger was a top prospect in hoops, but may have been a better prospect in volleyball.
Budinger finally arrived on campus and prepared for the team's trip to Canada. The tour was supposed to be Budinger's first taste of college basketball, but it wound up being his first taste of college adversity.
Budinger got sick on the trip and only played in two of the team's five games. Getting back to Tucson was not much better. Budinger had to have his tonsils taken out and lost weight. He was noticeably thinner at the team's annual media day.
"After the surgery I lost some weight because I could not work out like I am used to," Budinger admitted. "I still have to get my legs back."
Other than a broken wrist the summer before his senior year in high school, Budinger has not faced a whole lot of physical adversity.
"I'm not really used to it, but it shouldn't set me back," Budinger noted.
Even his play seems too easy. Budinger is an explosive athlete, but he seems to glide to the hoop. While other guys dunk with force and power, Budinger just seems to appear at the rim before throwing down.
"The thing that's so impressive about Chase physically is that he does things with such ease," Lute Olson said. "It doesn't look like it's an effort for him to sprint the court. He jumps very easily."
Things will get a little tougher before they get easier. Even the best freshmen have to get accustomed to the rigorous Lute Olson practices. Not only are they physically taxing, but there is so much to learn. No matter how good Budinger's offensive game is, he'll have to be able to rebound and play defense the way Olson expects.
"His biggest adjustment will be what every freshman has to make, that's defensively," Olson said. "You'll have to play against the quickest players you've ever played against in your life."
Budinger is also facing the toughest competition of his career. Playing in Southern California he'd find the occasional talented opponent. The AAU circuit provided more talented opponents, but the freewheeling style of the summer rarely provided competent defenders. That has changed now that practice has started. Now he gets to fact a future NBA player everyday.
"He and Marcus have been going against each other," Olson explained. "There is no question that Marcus is making it difficult for him to get good looks. What a great opportunity for improvement every day when you're coming out and you've got a guy that's going to be in your face. It's also great for Marcus because he takes it as a real challenge to make it hard for Chase."
That's not to say it has been all tough. Budinger won the slam dunk contest at ‘McKale Madness' to open the basketball season and proceeded to score 12 points in that evening's scrimmage.
For the most part life has been good for Chase Budinger. The start of his Wildcat career has been a bit rocky, but with his talent and work ethic, one has too assume the Arizona freshman will be on easy street sooner rather than later.