Finally some good news for the Arizona program: Small forward Chase Budinger announced Monday that he was pulling his name out of the NBA Draft and will return to Tucson for his junior season.
"Over the last several weeks I have experienced the NBA draft process, attended several workouts with a variety of NBA clubs and received much positive feedback from those teams. However, it is my decision to return to the University of Arizona," Budinger said in a statement released by the school. "The opportunity to play again for Coach (Lute) Olson, in my mind, best prepares me to have a successful NBA career. I want to enter the NBA with great certainty of my future potential and believe the chance to develop further under Coach Olson enhances that opportunity. I want to thank the NBA and the clubs for their time and feedback and look forward to another exciting season as an Arizona Wildcat."
Budinger, a third-team All-Pac-10 selection, was projected as a first-rounder in nearly every mock draft available, so his decision is a surprise. He averaged 17.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists this past season for Kevin O'Neill, who took over as interim coach when Olson announced that he was taking a leave of absence.
"I'm thrilled that Chase has decided to come back," Olson said. "Selfishly, I feel the decision is in Chase's best interest. I feel that in a year he will be a top-10 pick. With guards like Nic (Wise) and Brandon (Jennings), he'll have two great passers getting him the ball. Our style of play next year will be much more conducive to Chase having a great year, much like he did when he was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2007."
The "our style of play" quote can be interpreted as a swipe at the defense-minded O'Neill, with whom Olson did not part well.
Two assistants also left the program. Former Wildcats guard Miles Simon was fired, and fellow former Wildcats guard Josh Pastner hooked on with John Calipari's Memphis staff.
The Wildcats (19-15 overall, 8-10 in the Pac-10) made their 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance in 2007-08, the longest active streak in the nation.
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.