‘It was always the plan’

‘It was always the plan’

INDIANAPOLIS – Former Indiana Pacers player Chase Budinger will step inside an NBA arena again on Friday. But not playing basketball. He will be there playing beach volleyball, a sport he has excelled at in a way he never did in the professional life of hardwood and hoops.

Since retiring from the NBA, Budinger has become one of the top competitors in the pro beach volleyball circuit, a sport he returned to from his days growing up in California after leaving his eight-year basketball career.

On Friday, Budinger, along with partner Troy Field, will play in the AVP Pro Beach volleyball championship at the Phoenix Suns Discovery Center in the Phoenix AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) Championships, which run through Saturday.

Sand will be sent onto the venue floor for the season-ending single elimination tournament. There will be six teams in each of the men’s and women’s brackets to crown the best pairings of the 2022 season. The winning team has a purse of $15,000 and second place $10,000.

Before climbing the pro beach volleyball ranks, Budinger played one season for the Pacers (2015-16), playing 49 games, averaging 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. He played seven years with Houston, Minnesota and Phoenix.

But, even when the 6-7 Budinger was in the spotlight, he was thinking about volleyball, he told IndyStar in 2019.

“That was always the plan,” said Budinger, 34, “to play beach volleyball when basketball was over.”

Basketball first, all the way

Budinger grew up with his feet hitting the sand every day. At La Costa Canyon High in California, Budinger led his team to three volleyball state championships. He was named National Player of the Year by “Volleyball Magazine” as a senior.

He was also a rising basketball representative making NBA all-stars—and he loved basketball.

When college offers came in from all over the country, some to play volleyball, some to play basketball, some to play both, Budinger didn’t hesitate. He didn’t have to think about it.

He was choosing basketball, all the way.

Budinger signed with Arizona and was the 44th overall pick by Detroit in the 2009 NBA draft. He played in the league for seven years, until 2016, when he left to play for Baskonia.

“It’s kind of tough going from the NBA to overseas. I didn’t have the greatest time,” Budinger said in 2019. “Completely different lifestyle, pretty grueling.”

After a year, Budinger began to think. Maybe it was time to make that leap to volleyball, as he had always planned. But he was not sure.

Then the phone rang.

‘It was impossible to oppose that offer’

On the other side was the LeBron James of beach volleyball, Sean Rosenthal. The veteran beach superstar is a two-time Olympian and has 11 AVP tour victories.

Rosenthal had heard talk about this former NBA player who was “gnarly” at volleyball. People were telling Rosenthal to check it out.

“One of the best people asked if I wanted to join him,” Budinger said. “I couldn’t resist that offer.”

Since then, Budinger has appeared in 27 AVP tournaments and 29 FIVB (international) tournaments in five seasons. He has won three tournaments, including two last season, and has appeared in five other finals.

Chase Budinger says he has made a commitment to learn the game of beach volleyball.

Chase Budinger says he has made a commitment to learn the game of beach volleyball.

Budinger said basketball brought a lot to his volleyball game.

“Just my work ethic playing basketball, I definitely carried over to the beach volleyball game,” he said in 2019. “Just learning the sport, learning the little details of the beach was a blast.”

The Arizona Republic contributed to this story.

Follow IndyStar sports reporter Dana Benbow on Twitter: @DanaBenbow. Contact her via email: dbenbow@indystar.com.

This article originally appeared on the Indianapolis Star: Ex-Pacer player Chase Budinger in AVP Pro Beach volleyball championship

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