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John Rudometkin, a two-time All-American for USC’s basketball team in the early 1960s, died Tuesday in Newcastle, Calif., of chronic lung disease, his family and USC announced. He was 75.
Rudometkin was a center at 6 feet 6 inches, but he was a force much larger than his height.
After coming to USC from Allan Hancock Junior College, he led the Trojans in scoring for three consecutive seasons and was a three-time team MVP, establishing a career scoring record of 1,484 points,
a mark that stood for 23 years. His 831 rebounds were another school record at the time.
With Rudometkin leading the way, USC won the 1961 Athletic Associates of Western Universities (AAWU) championship – the Trojans' last outright conference title in men’s basketball.
The team’s radio broadcaster at the time was Chick Hearn, who nicknamed Rudometkin “The Reckless Russian” because of his hard-charging style.
Rudometkin was a second-round draft choice by the New York Knicks who played in the NBA for three seasons.
His playing career was cut short when non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was discovered near his heart and lungs, but he fought off the disease for five decades as he worked as a real estate investor, minister and motivational speaker.
He was inducted into the USC Hall of Fame in 2001. His No. 44 jersey was retired by the Trojans in 2010.
Rudometkin is survived by Carolyn, his wife of nearly 54 years, his sons, Ron, JD and Nathan, and four grandsons.
A memorial service will be held Aug. 16 at 1 p.m. and Auburn Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Auburn, Calif. In lieu of flowers, his family requests donations go to World Vision
By Mark Whicker, LA Daily News
Reach the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
John Rudometkin died on Tuesday, at 75.
Death was exhausted in the pursuit.
This could have happened 50 years ago, when Rudometkin was playing for the New York Knicks and began laboring under the effects of a non-Hodgkins lymphoma that was squeezing his lungs and chest.
His NBA career ended but his real campaign began, and when Rudometkin finally put down his sword he did so voluntarily.
He had been on a ventilator for years, but he toured the nation to give motivational speeches, he practiced his Seventh-Day Adventist faith,
and he kept barreling forward, through numerous lapses and scares.
Maybe he was waiting for a USC basketball player to surpass him.
Rudometkin was a two-time All-American for the Trojans.
In 1961 he led them to an undisputed AAWU title. They have not won a solo conference championship since.
He averaged 22.9 points and 12 rebounds as a junior, and he wound up averaging 18.5 points.
Even today he is fourth on USC’s all-time rebounding list, seventh on the scoring list.
“He was ahead of his time,” said Chris Appel, a guard on those teams. “
He was an artist, just a really charismatic player. He understood leverage and invented shots that weren’t seen before and haven’t been seen a lot since.
I’m not comparing him to Kobe Bryant, but that’s the same level of creativity.”
In the Los Angeles Classic, a distinguished eight-team holiday tournament at the Sports Arena, Rudometkin scored 35 points against Indiana, which had Olympic star Walt Bellamy.
Time and again he would get to the free-throw line and throw himself at the basket, with an underhand scoop shot that somehow kept going in.
He was a rugged 6-foot-6 center who roamed outside to shoot and either saw the driving lanes or created his own.
The Trojans’ play-by-play man was Chick Hearn, who began referring to “Rudo, the reckless Russian.”
“The only way to defend Rudometkin is to keep him from getting the ball,” John Wooden would say.
Twice Rudometkin had 20-point, 20-rebound games, and was the ninth pick in the NBA draft.
By then Rudometkin’s family had accepted the fact that he was more inclined to shoot hoops than raise crops or lay brick.
That was a tough admission, though.
The Rudometkins were Molokans, a dissident group within the Russian Orthodox church that, for one thing, insisted on drinking milk during fasting days.
Sensing that retribution was coming, and wary of the Communist revolution on the horizon, his family emigrated from Russia to the U.S.
When that didn’t work out, they went to Ensenada, where John’s parents met.
His mother’s family had a more complex journey.
They ran out of money near Cape Horn and made their way, on foot, through South America, to work on the Panama Canal, and finally to Mexico.
Eventually John’s parents wound up in Santa Maria, where young John became so enamored with a basketball that his mother got him a ball with redemption stamps, when he was 10. Tough people.
John would prove how tough.
After doctors found the lymphoma they blasted away with chemotherapy and radiation. Somehow the cancer went into hiding.
The lungs never were the same, and yet Rudometkin lived a rich life, traveling the country to tell his story,
raising three boys with Carolyn, his wife of 54 years, and running a real estate business.
“The real hero is my mother,” said Nathan Rudometkin, an eye surgeon from Temecula.
“Our family went up to look after him and we were exhausted after two days.
She would get up at 5 a.m., had the same work ethic he did.”
More than once the sons were notified that John was on the brink.
He needed a tracheotomy, he lost his physical strength for a time, and he found it difficult to rid his lungs of carbon dioxide.
Somehow Rudo kept himself ahead of the reaper.
It was tough for him to handle temperature changes, tough to do anything that required exertion. Tough was not a problem.
A few years ago, one of the sons gave Rudometkin a journal.
He had never expressed himself much, but he wrote a poem about his struggle. “It started with, ‘I cry out,’” Nathan said.
Those silent cries came to an end last week, as Rudometkin accepted hospice care
and called an end to the chase, in his home of Newcastle, close to the Sierras.
Like most great scorers, he never got caught unless he wanted to be.
Old Fart get together...
From left to right
Joe and I saw Bob Nobel for the first time in 50 years.
|So who are these two?|
Then there are the Miller Street kids in 1951
Gordon remembers the Knudsen Creamery Field Trip of 1948...
That's Gordon standing far right.
Recognize quite a few: Frank Gonzales, Dick Beall, Larry Ginapp, Sonny Rosso, Jean Heritage, Susan McWilliams, Gerald Beall, Willie Sohl, Bill Jones,
JoAnn Cicero, Richard McMullen, Bud Simco, Alice Flores, and Joe Duran
Sally can be reached at Sally@Classof58.org
A group of Santa Maria HAM radio operators hold a daily net on 7.225Mhz. Including W6YLD Phil Wahl. Kind of interesting catching up with names from the past. Jan K6VLE
I've spent most of last year building my roommate Nancy... a Whimiscal House...
It's still a work in progress... but I'm making progress. Jan