Opinion by Greg Hansen : Cat's NBA chase seems imminent

Budinger's decision to go pro could come today, and he might land close to Tucson
2008-06-15T00:00:00Z Opinion by Greg Hansen : Cat's NBA chase seems imminentOpinion by Greg Hansen Arizona Daily Star
June 15, 2008 12:00 am  • 

Sometime today or Monday, Chase Budinger almost certainly will announce that he will remain in the NBA draft and the Arizona Wildcats will be left with a small forward rotation of Zane Johnson and Jamelle Horne.

Not exactly Richard Jefferson and Luke Walton.

While we're doing some forecasting, here's another: The Phoenix Suns will select Budinger with the No. 15 pick in the draft. They will be drawn to him because he is a person of good character and good size with one tempting skill — perimeter shooting — who has not tapped his vast potential.

Budinger will automatically receive $1.62 million for his rookie season in the 15th slot. He will be a happy dude.

The debate that rages within the Suns office, as with all other NBA clubs, is whether Budinger will be the next Brent Barry, selected No. 15 overall out of Oregon State in 1995, or the next Shareef Abdur-Rahim, chosen No. 3 overall out of Cal in 1996.

Budinger is apt to have a career much closer to that of Barry, a designated shooter who cannot create his own shot and doesn't have enough lateral quickness to be a defensive stopper. Barry has earned $49.4 million in his NBA career, playing for five clubs. He was a starter for four of his 13 pro seasons.

Abdur-Rahim, who did have that all-important first step, allowing him to get to the bucket and create shots, has earned $94.6 million in his 12 NBA seasons.

If Budinger returns to the UA for another season, he would not be any quicker. Those brutal beach workouts he endured so diligently last summer did not make him more aggressive or a better rebounder. He is what he is.



Distance runner, 12, may be next great Tucson athlete

I vividly remember a phone call from former UA gymnastics coach Jim Gault telling me that his 12-year-old gymnast, Kerri Strug, had the makings of "an Olympic performer.'' And she did. Strug became a gold medalist.

I cannot forget when former UA basketball star Ed Nymeyer phoned to inform me that his 12-year-old grandchild, Lacey Nymeyer, "seemed to have that something special.'' And she does. Lacey won multiple NCAA swimming championships, has been a world-record holder and in two weeks goes to the Olympic trials with a strong chance to make Team USA.

Last week I got a call from Doolen Middle School track coach Ivan Yocum who said that his 12-year-old distance running phenom, Ryan Silva, set a world record for his age group last week in Portland, Ore.

At the Portland Track Festival, Silva ran the mile in 4 minutes 43.78 seconds, joining an age-group list of world-record holders that includes former Olympians Jim Ryun, Steve Cram and current USA star Alan Webb. Silva broke the record for 12-year-olds set in 1968 by United Kingdom distance-running star Glen Stewart.

"Ryan is amazing. The first time I saw him run I went 'Oh my gosh,' " said Yocum, who has taught and coached at the school since 1993. "He runs with (UA coach) Fred Harvey on the Elite Track Club and comes from a family of runners. His father, Juan, and his mother, Kim, are runners and cyclists. It seems very natural to Ryan.''

Yocum said Ryan Silva has developed a terrific finishing kick and that, "you'll be hearing from him for a long time.''

I believe it.


Tigers get Marana's Perry, second Tucson connection

When the Detroit Tigers drafted UA right-hander Ryan Perry of Marana in the first round of the draft 10 days ago, it wasn't without a local touch. Amphitheater High School grad Glen Ezell is the Tigers' director of player development. Before becoming an executive in Detroit's scouting system, Ezell played 10 minor-league seasons and spent about 20 years coaching and managing in the minor leagues. He has been a coach on the staffs of the Rangers, the Rays and the Tigers. … Before Salpointe Catholic grad Sara Brown turned pro two weeks ago, joining the LPGA Duramed Futures Tour, she received significant financial support from a Michigan State booster to help with her travel expenses. She shot 79-82 and missed the cut in her first Futures Tour event, but is in fourth place entering today's final round in Decatur, Ill. The winner receives $14,000, and the runner-up $10,000. Brown became MSU's career scoring leader in women's golf, with a 75.27 average over four seasons. She was a three-time All-Big Ten selection. … Broncos fullback-linebacker Spencer Larsen has not signed with the club yet and probably won't until early July, which is typical. As a sixth-round draft pick, the ex-Arizona Wildcat is slotted for a $100,000 signing bonus and a rookie salary of $285,000.

Fowler amazes therapist, but doesn't surprise him

When CDO softball pitcher Kenzie Fowler last week was named Gatorade's national Player of the Year, it did not catch Tucson physical therapist/trainer John Woolf by surprise. He conducted Fowler's rehabilitation from life-threatening surgery. "Considering the mechanics required to pitch at that level, it's an unprecedented story, on par with (cyclist) Greg Lemond and Lance Armstrong's return to the top,'' said Woolf, who owns ProActive Therapy in Tucson. "Kenzie has a depth of resources well beyond her years, not to mention amazing parents and an exceptional surgeon. I have rarely worked with such a talented individual.'' … Former CDO pitcher Brandon Penick, who started 11 games for Phoenix College this year, has accepted a scholarship to Division I Delaware State. Penick was a 2006 All-Southern Arizona standout. … The USA Wrestling Olympic trials conclude today in Las Vegas. Sunnyside High School grads Eric Larkin, at 145 pounds, and Nate Gallick, at 132, are highly seeded. Larkin is No. 7 overall, Gallick No. 4. It is extremely difficult to make the Olympic team; only one wrestler in each weight class makes the squad, and Gallick's 132-pound division has not yet qualified for the Olympic field.


Ex-UA standout rehabbing injury, eyes Olympic trials

It is encouraging to learn that Brianna Glenn, a former UA national champion in the 200 meters and long jump, will be able to compete in the Olympic trials on June 30. She suffered a knee injury in May, requiring minor surgery, and did not return to the track until last week. She has the nation's No. 7 long jump this year, 21 feet 7 1/2 inches, and probably could make the Olympic team if she can duplicate that distance in Eugene, Ore. She has been rehabbing at the UA. … Jake Arnold, who won the NCAA decathlon for Arizona in 2006 and 2007, begins the Olympic trials decathlon June 29 in Eugene. He is coming off leg and groin injuries after returning from an Italian decathlon last month. He has helped UA jumps coach Sheldon Blockburger coach the school's latest national champion, high jumper Liz Patterson, this year. … UA baseball coach Andy Lopez has built enough equity in seven Arizona seasons that he will survive what could be a losing 2009 season without significant damage. Arizona's personnel losses are likely to be ridiculous after a five-year run of NCAA tournament seasons.


Olympic exhibition will be emotional for UA's Candrea

This will be an emotional week for UA softball coach Mike Candrea, who will take the USA Olympic softball team to Stevens Point, Wis., on Tuesday for an exhibition game.

It was in Stevens Point during the tour leading up to the 2004 Athens Olympics that Candrea's wife, Sue, 49, collapsed at the airport and died a day later of a brain aneurysm.

Initially, Candrea thought about scheduling around Stevens Point, but reconsidered. He will use the trip for some closure.

He has since remarried, to Tina Tilton, and become a first-time grandfather. He also stopped commuting from Casa Grande, where he lived with Sue, and moved to Tucson full time.

Rather than fly from Stevens Point, Team USA will bus 300 miles today from Normal, Ill., where it played on Saturday. After the game in Wisconsin, the team will bus 350 miles to a Thursday appearance in South Bend, Ind.

Last week in St. Louis, Candrea was presented with the Distinguished Service Award by the U.S. Sports Academy. The award represents contributions via research, instruction or service to national sports. Previous winners include Don Shula, Eddie Robinson and Martina Navratilova.


Livengood no longer a strong candidate for Pac-10's top job

A few years ago, Arizona Wildcats athletic director Jim Livengood would have been on the short list to replace retiring Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen.

But Livengood's age, 63, and his school's well-chronicled turbulence in basketball and football, surely eliminates him from consideration. If things get any worse, or even if they don't, it might be a surprise if Livengood's contract, which runs through 2010, is extended. His detractors have grown in number and in prominence.

My guess is that ex-Stanford athletic director Ted Leland will be given the first crack to replace Hansen. But I'd strongly consider 14-year WAC commissioner Karl Benson, 56, who has been a dynamic force/personality in keeping that relatively minor conference up and running during difficult economic times, and especially being able to survive the WAC exits of BYU, Utah, New Mexico and San Diego State to the Mountain West Conference.

Benson is a get-things-done guy who can think on his feet and knows what to do when the TV cameras are on.

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