Former University of Arizona basketball star and NBA pllayer Chase Budinger has made an early exit from his first shot on the professional AVP and FIVB tours. Playing on Thursday at the Huntington Beach Open, jointly-sponsored event between the American AVP and world FIVB tours, Budinger and his partner, veteran Sean Rosenthal, fell in straight-sets to the 7th-seeded Dutch pair of Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen 21-17, 21-13; and then to Brazilian pair Oscar/Ricardo 21-13, 21-19
The 29-year old Budinger spent 8 seasons in the NBA and 1 playing with Spanish team Baskonia. He as a top basketball prospect out of high school, sharing MVP honors at the 2006 High School All-American game with Kevin Durant. He would go on to be named the MVP of the Junior World Championships and the 2007 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
He had some early success with the Houston Rockets, before going on to stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers, and Phoenix Suns.
After his year abroad, Budinger decided to step away from basketball and step into beach volleyball full-bore, where players in their 30s are regularly tournament and world champions. In high school, the 6’7″ Budinger was a volleyball standout as well – and his older sister played at San Francisco, and his older brother Duncan also plays volleyball professionally.
He’s now partnered with Rosenthal, who was a 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympian with then-partner Jake Gibb, where the pair advanced to the quarterfinals as both occasions. Rosenthal was named the FIVB Most Outstanding Player in 2012, and he and Gibb were FIVB World Tour Champions that year.
The two missed an opportunity to warm-up early in the tournament against French pair Youssef Krou/Quincy Aye, who would have made a more equal opponent for Budinger and Rosenthal. Krou/Aye withdrew from the match due to injury.
“It was unfortunate that we weren’t able to play our first match this morning and go up against one of the best teams in the world, for my first time out,” Budinger said. “I had a lot of nerves, a lot of shakiness to me out there. It definitely was not what I wanted or up to my potential, but it was good to finally get going, start playing, start the learning process and hopefully it just goes up from there.”
Brower/Meeuwsen were the 2013 FIVB World Beach Volleyball Champions.
For their effort, Budinger and Rosenthal will share $1,000, though because of Rosenthal’s points, they were able to avoid the $200 entry fee that comes with entering the prequalification phase. The event is a 4-star event, the second-highest rung on the FIVB ladder, which means that each player will receive 50 FIVB points. That will jump Budinger up to the top 600 players in the world in the FIVB rankings, and as a pair they will sit inside of the top 300.