Sean Rosenthal

USAT/AVP

Chase Budinger, former NBA player, shoots for Olympic beach volleyball

Leave a comment

NEW YORK — LeBron James. Dwight Howard. Kevin Durant. Harrison Barnes.

Just four athletes have been named MVP of the McDonald’s High School All-American boys’ basketball game and won an Olympic gold medal this century.

Chase Budinger aspires to be the fifth, despite having not played in the NBA since 2016.

“I’m a professional beach volleyball player now,” Budinger, a seven-season NBA veteran, said at the AVP New York City Open last week. “I’m still getting used to saying that.”

Budinger used his size — 6-foot-7 — and athleticism — he dunked over Diddy in the 2012 NBA Slam Dunk Contest — to transition to the sand.

Budinger is no stranger to the sport.

He played indoor volleyball in high school and was named the 2006 National Player of the Year by Volleyball Magazine.

For college, he decided among the University of Arizona, UCLA and USC. UCLA and USC offered the opportunity to play both basketball and volleyball, but coach Lute Olson sold him on basketball in Arizona.

“I decided to see how far basketball could take me,” said Budinger, whose older brother and sister both played college volleyball. “But in the back of my mind, I knew could always go back to volleyball after I was done with basketball.”

Budinger played beach volleyball every summer to keep his skills sharp and stay active in the offseason. He regularly partnered with fellow NBA players including Richard Jefferson, Kevin Love and Luke Walton.

About four years ago, Budinger moved to California’s South Bay, home to many of the nation’s top beach volleyball players, including two-time Olympian Sean Rosenthal. During pick-up games, Rosenthal often suggested that Budinger try beach volleyball when his basketball career ended.

“I thought partnering with Chase would be low risk with a very high reward,” said Rosenthal, who competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics with Jake Gibb, and has also played with 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser. “Chase reminds me of guys like that. He moves so well for a big guy.”

In January, Budinger agreed to practice with Rosenthal while his agent solicited professional basketball offers. After a couple of weeks, Budinger was hooked.

“I get to bike to work everyday and practice on the beach,” said Budinger, who has not touched a basketball in three months. “It’s a good life.”

The transition has not been easy.

Budinger and Rosenthal had a daunting draw in their first international tournament as partners in May. They lost to 2016 Olympic bronze medalists of Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands, and were eliminated by three-time Olympic medalist Ricardo Santos of Brazil.

They also went winless in their first domestic AVP tournament, as Budinger battled the flu while they played under the unforgiving Austin, Texas sun.

“We’ve had some bad luck,” Budinger said. “But it’s like any sport. I remember my first NBA game. I think I had two turnovers and an airball in my first couple of minutes. Then in the second half, I was able to calm down.”

Budinger’s goal is to compete for a medal at an Olympics, either in 2020 or 2024. He acknowledged that qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Games “is a possibility, but a long shot.”

The U.S. can send a maximum of two teams to Tokyo. Dalhausser and Nick Lucena are third in the world ranking, but no other U.S. pair is in the top 20. The 2020 Olympic qualification period begins in earnest in September.

NBC Olympics analyst Dain Blanton agreed that 2020 Olympics is “possible” for Budinger but it “might be too soon.”

“The sky is the limit with Chase’s volleyball background and his competitive greatness as he has shown in the NBA,” said Blanton, a 2000 Olympic champion.  “He will be a force at the net as a blocker with his size and will also be a great attacker.”

Playing an outdoor sport is an adjustment for Budinger, whose high school volleyball teammates nicknamed him “Casper.”

“It’s been a lot of sunscreen and a lot of reapplying,” he said. “This is as tan as I’ve ever been.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Beach volleyball on top of a Ferris wheel

Phil Dalhausser, Sean Rosenthal look forward after split

Leave a comment

LONG BEACH, Calif. — When Phil Dalhausser boarded a flight to Seattle in early August, bound for an AVP tournament, he found a familiar figure in the seat beside him: Sean Rosenthal.

It was the first time they’d seen each other since Dalhausser decided to end their two-year partnership and make a run for Rio with former partner Nick Lucena, with whom he started his career in 2003.

“It was a little awkward for the first two minutes, and then we got to talking about sports and video games,” Dalhausser said in advance of this week’s World Series of Beach Volleyball (NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra, Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, semifinals) and Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, finals)). “And then we started playing Monopoly on my phone, so it was all good after that.”

Dalhausser, a two-time Olympian who won gold in Beijing with Todd Rogers, suffered an oblique injury May 28 while playing in Moscow. After a week of rest and three more rebuilding his strength, Dalhausser returned to competition with Rosenthal in Yokohama, Japan. The duo was eliminated in the round of 16 on July 24.

When Dalhausser flew home to California after the tournament, he found an email from Lucena expressing his interest in playing together again. It had been on Dalhausser’s mind, too.

“I always envisioned finishing my career with Nick,” Dalhausser said. The two first met while attending college in Florida and lived together in South Carolina before moving to California to focus on their beach volleyball careers.

For Rosenthal, a 2008 and 2012 Olympian with Jake Gibb, the split was unexpected. He quickly teamed up with Lucena’s former partner, Theo Brunner.

“I mean, it’s beach volleyball, and it does happen,” Rosenthal said. “The only thing was the timing of it, and they didn’t give us any heads up.”

Dalhausser and Rosenthal, both 35, won three FIVB events in their first year together in 2013 and then three more in 2014, more than any other pair. They had not made the semifinals of an FIVB World Tour event since last August’s World Series of Beach Volleyball, which they won.

The switch means both pairs will start from scratch in the Olympic qualification process and must compete in 12 FIVB events before June 12, 2016. The weight of the swap falls hardest on Brunner, who was part of the second-ranked American team in Olympic qualifying with Lucena, behind Gibb and Casey Patterson.

Two AVP events in Seattle and Manhattan Beach served as warm-ups for both partnerships before this week’s FIVB World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, where both will strive to earn points toward Olympic qualification.

Dalhausser and Lucena finished second in Seattle and first in Manhattan Beach, while Brunner and Rosenthal finished fifth and seventh. Though the results do not factor into Olympic qualification, it gave Rosenthal an idea of the workload that awaits.

“We’ve got a long, bumpy road ahead of us,” he said. “If we’d had a start at the beginning of the year, I think we’d be right there battling teams for first and second spots. [Those] weren’t the exact finishes we want, but it was good to maybe get those losses now.”

Dalhausser and Rosenthal could be on opposite sides of the net this week for the first time since their split.

“We were kind of hoping to get a shot in Seattle or Manhattan, but we didn’t match up in the brackets,” Rosenthal said. “But hopefully we match up here. It would be cool to knock them out.”

Kerri Walsh Jennings returns at World Series of Beach Volleyball

Phil Dalhausser, Sean Rosenthal split

Leave a comment

Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal have ended their beach volleyball partnership, with Rosenthal saying Dalhausser’s recent oblique injury played a role in breaking up the most successful pair in the world in 2014.

“I think if he doesn’t have that oblique injury, we’re out playing and we’re back to where we’ve been the last two years, as the No. 1 team in the world,” Rosenthal said, according to Redbull.com. “When we weren’t injured, we were the best team in the world. We’ve had to deal with some injuries, and I don’t think either of us have had to do that our whole career, so that put a little more pressure on us: ‘Why aren’t they winning all the time? Why aren’t they the best team in the world?’ When we’re healthy, we were.

“So I think injuries held us back a little bit from being most people thought we could be, and maybe even what we thought we could be.”

Dalhausser, a 2008 Olympic champion with Todd Rogers, and Rosenthal, a 2008 and 2012 Olympian with Jake Gibb, first teamed at the start of 2013. They’re both 35.

They won three FIVB events that first year and then three in 2014, more than any other pair.

“When we first got together, everyone was saying we were going to win every event — which didn’t happen,” Dalhausser said, according to Redbull.com. “But we did win the most events on the World Tour in 2013 and 2014. We were really inconsistent. We had some really bad finishes, and we had some good finishes.”

Dalhausser suffered a muscle tear in his left oblique May 28 playing in Moscow. He returned to play with Rosenthal in Yokohama, Japan, last week, when they were eliminated in the round of 16.

Dalhausser and Rosenthal haven’t made the semifinals of an FIVB World Tour event since last August’s World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Calif., which they won.

Dalhausser will now play with former partner Nick Lucena, and Rosenthal will play with Lucena’s now-former partner, Theo Brunner, according to Redbull.com.

“Nick plays a real similar game as my old partner Todd,” Dalhausser said, according to Redbull.com. “He’s the same type of player, same style. So I don’t think we’ll have a problem.”

Both new pairs now start from scratch in Olympic qualifying, with the main path through FIVB results from the start of 2015 through June 12, 2016. A nation cannot send more than two teams to the Olympics.

Excluding Lucena and Brunner, the top U.S. teams in the current standings are Gibb and Casey Patterson, who won an FIVB Grand Slam in St. Petersburg, Fla., in June, and 42-year-old 1996 and 2000 indoor volleyball Olympian John Hyden and Tri Bourne.

Kerri Walsh Jennings sets return competition