It wasn’t the ideal start to Chase Budinger‘s professional beach volleyball career.
Budinger, a former NBA player, has been preparing to make his pro beach debut for months at the FIVB Huntington Beach Open with partner Sean Rosenthal. The duo did not have a morning match when the main draw got underway Thursday because opponents Quincy Aye and Youssef Krou of France forfeited because of injury, so 39th-seeded Budinger and Rosenthal began the tournament cold, against seventh-seeded Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of the Netherlands, and lost 21-17, 21-13.
“It was unfortunate that we weren’t able to play our first match this morning and go up against one of the best teams in the world, for my first time out,” Budinger said. “I had a lot of nerves, a lot of shakiness to me out there. It definitely was not what I wanted or up to my potential, but it was good to finally get going, start playing, start the learning process and hopefully it just goes up from there.”
Budinger’s debut was much anticipated. His seven-year NBA career ended in October 2016 when he was waived by the Brooklyn Nets. He played volleyball in high school and knew it was something he could come back to, so he could appreciate the significance of just being on the sand, with Rosenthal, weeks before his 30th birthday.
“Finally, to be able to start playing tournaments, it’s ultimately what I need to get experience and to build some chemistry with him,” Budinger said. “Hopefully, throughout this year, we’ll get better and better and be able to compete with these top teams.”
The 6-foot-7 Budinger got some cheers for a kill and a block during the match but it was evident that he and Rosenthal are still feeling it out. The two-time Olympian Rosenthal sought out Budinger as his partner and he’s looking forward to a long relationship.