Ex-NBA player Chase Budinger, Miles Evans clinch last U.S. Olympic beach volleyball spot

Former NBA player Chase Budinger and partner Miles Evans clinched the last U.S. Olympic beach volleyball spot for the Paris Games after a late surge in qualifying.

Budinger, 36, and Evans, 34, are headed to their first Olympics.

They passed countrymen Theo Brunner and Trevor Crabb in international rankings last month in the race for the second and final U.S. men’s spot in Paris.

Then they clinched that spot when Brunner and Crabb were eliminated from the last qualifying tournament by losing their first match on Wednesday. Brunner and Crabb needed a deep run in the tournament and an early exit from Budinger and Evans to overtake them.

LIST: U.S. athletes qualified for Paris Olympics

Budinger and Evans were ranked fourth among American teams last fall before posting their best results together. They are now ranked second in the U.S. and 13th in the world.

No more than two teams per nation per gender can qualify for the Olympics.

The other U.S. Olympic beach teams previously clinched spots — Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes and Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss (both medal contenders) for the women and Andy Benesh and Miles Partain for the men.

In high school in California, Budinger was a Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year in indoor volleyball and co-MVP of the 2006 McDonald’s All-American game with Kevin Durant.

He chose basketball, playing at the University of Arizona and then for four NBA teams over seven seasons.

He ended his basketball career in 2017 after a partial season in Spain.

“I decided to see how far basketball could take me,” Budinger, who played recreational beach volleyball with Richard Jefferson, Kevin Love and Luke Walton during his basketball career, said in 2018. “But in the back of my mind, I knew I could always go back to volleyball after I was done with basketball.”

Budinger began playing pro beach volleyball in 2018 and had five different partners before teaming with Evans starting with the 2023 season.

“Most guys, when they finish a sport, they’re kind of confused, or they’re kind of lost for the next journey or whatever life takes them next,” he said on the Sandcast volleyball podcast in 2018. “I was lucky enough to just transition into a different sport immediately and play at the highest level.”

Budinger will become the first athlete to play both an NBA regular season game and Olympic beach volleyball.

Keith Erickson played on the 1964 U.S. Olympic men’s indoor volleyball team, then spent 12 seasons in the NBA, including winning a title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972.

Evans played indoor volleyball at UC Santa Barbara in 2012 and 2013 before pursuing a pro career on the beach.

Starting in 2014, he played with 20 different partners before Budinger, according to BVBinfo.com.

Evans is the latest beach volleyball Olympian from Santa Barbara, which also produced gold medalists Karch Kiraly (1996) and Todd Rogers (2008).

Budinger and Evans each won on the domestic AVP tour with different partners before teaming up. Internationally, each player’s best results have come since they joined forces last year.

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