One was accepting a basketball scholarship offer from Arizona, which at the same time meant he was turning down UCLA and USC. Budinger made his announcement Wednesday afternoon at La Costa Canyon before television cameras, notepads, family and friends.
The other tough choice was saying goodbye to volleyball.
In the end, he decided two difficult decisions had one answer: Play basketball full-time for Arizona coach Lute Olson, the coach he trusts most to develop his basketball skills. The veteran coach has led his teams to an NCAA title and four Final Four appearances in 22 seasons at the Tucson school as well as having a track record for turning out players ready for the NBA.
“Coach Olson is the best coach in the country,” Budinger said. “I know he and his staff will develop my skills at the highest level possible and help me become the best player I can be.”
Budinger, a 6-foot-8, 195-pound guard/forward in basketball, was the San Diego Section’s All-CIF Player of the Year and the State Junior of the year by CalHiSports.com last season.
He led the San Diego Section in scoring with 27.8 points, 13.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists a game. He can score inside and outside, at one point averaged 17 rebounds a game in Palomar League play and also can play point guard.
“You listen to him talk you can hear he’s genuine about getting better,” said La Costa Canyon coach David Cassaw. “He’s a driven guy who has always gotten better. He can do a lot of things, so we’re talking about refining his game and sharpening the edge.”
Budinger has played on the Mavericks’ varsity since his freshman year. He said Olson and San Diego State coach Steve Fisher were two of the first coaches to recruit him, but his desire to play in the Pac-10 led him to later narrow his choices to Arizona, UCLA and USC.
In volleyball, Budinger was a member of the USA Youth and Junior National Team in 2004, the summer before his junior year. He was the team MVP of the 2004 Youth Volleyball Championship played in Mexico City.
In high school volleyball, he has been the All-CIF Player of the Year as a sophomore and junior while leading the Mavericks to CIF Division I titles both seasons.
“It was pretty tough giving up volleyball because I’ve been playing for so long,” Budinger said. “I decided I needed to concentrate on basketball, because I’ve never done that before, and see how far it will take me. I can always go back to volleyball.”
Budinger’s Seaside Volleyball Club coach is Fred Featherstone, a long-time coach on the local and national scene.
“He’s the best high school volleyball player in the nation, and I say that without any resverations,” Featherstone said. “If he comes back to volleyball, he could still be an Olympic player.”