Moving from the court to the sand, Chase Budinger qualified for the U.S. Men’s beach volleyball team. Budinger and Mike Evans, his partner, are ranked 13th in the world and will be the number #2 pairing in Paris.

The 6’7″ athlete, a California native, grew up playing volleyball and was named Volleyball magazine’s National High School Player of the Year, along with an All-American honor in basketball. However, the two-sport athlete decided to take up basketball full-time in his freshman year at Arizona. The forward started three years with the Wildcats and averaged 17 points a game during his time in Tucson. His teams went to the NCAA tournament every season he played but only advanced to the Sweet 16 once.

After his collegiate days, he became the 44th pick in the 2009 NBA draft and played until 2016 with four teams, including the Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns. After spending one season on the hardwood in Europe, he returned to his childhood calling.

Budinger joined the AVP tour in 2018 and has played beach ever since. He says he never wanted to get the “what now” feelings that athletes get after retiring and used volleyball to keep him moving. According to the AVP website, he earned Most Improved Player honors a year later and won his first AVP title. Fast forward five years later, Budinger and Evans clinched the last spot in the Olympics, and the 36-year-old will compete in the Summer Games for the first time.

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The Olympics are in full swing, with more U.S. trials underway in the coming weeks. Swimming begins June 15 in Indianapolis, track and field starts June 21 in Oregon, and the summer games begin June 25 in the Target Center in Minnesota. The qualifiers will head to Paris a month later, and the Summer Games will start on July 26. 

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