STILLWATER — Gallagher-Iba Arena always felt like home for Alex Budke.
Now more than ever.
The son of the late Kurt Budke, Alex transferred from St. Gregory's for an opportunity to walk on at Oklahoma State. And for the opportunity to return home to Gallagher-Iba, where his dad, killed in a plane crash a year ago Saturday, delivered the women's program to respectability.
“It's a great feeling to come out on the floor in orange before all the, well, we call them family,” Alex said.
It's always been that sort of relationship between the Budkes and OSU. A beloved coach and his family, welcomed and embraced by the community and fan base.
Alex's color of choice — like his sister Sara, brother Brett and mother Shelley — naturally was orange. The fit is even more special now, with Alex in uniform, playing inside the grand old building where his dad did so much good work with the Cowgirls.
“It's something I always wanted,” Alex said of playing for the Cowboys. “Realistically, coming out of high school I knew I wasn't a scholarship player here. But being in a uniform, I've seen all these other great players wear is really fun, and special.”
A first-team All-Centennial Conference pick as a senior at Stillwater High, Budke kept his basketball career alive at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, playing in 12 games there as a freshman a year ago.
“St. Greg's was a blast,” Alex said. “At the time I committed, I wasn't sure if that was the best decision or not. But after going there a year, it definitely was. I have no regrets about going to St. Greg's. The people there are great. The coaching staff is great. I still keep in contact with them now. And I wish them the best.”
The loss of his father changed things for Alex, with Stillwater and his family foremost in his mind.
“That was a big, big factor of why I came back, to be close to the family and help out as much as I can,” Alex said. “That was probably the main factor in coming back.”