Adventist Professional Basketball Star Passed On at 75
November 27, 2015: John Rudometkin very likely achieved greater fame in basketball than any other Adventist in history. He was a two-time All American in college basketball and then a second-round draft choice for the National Basketball Association (NBA) New York Knicks in the United States. His career was cut short by cancer, but he successfully fought the disease and lived to age 75.
It did not get much attention at the time, but Rudometkin died this past summer in August from chronic lung disease, a residual problem from his struggle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His memorial service was held August 16 at the Auburn (California) Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Rudometkin played college basketball for the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans for three years, 1960 through 1962. He led the team to the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) championship in 1961, the last time USC won a conference title. Chick Hearn, the radio voice of the team nicknamed him the Reckless Russian.
He was picked for the All-American first team in 1961 and 1962, and set a career record in points scored that stood for 23 years; 1,484 points. He still ranks seventh on USC’s scoring chart and fourth among rebound records at 831. He twice achieved 20-point and 20-rebound games.
Rudometkin was inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2010, the Trojan team retired the number he wore as a student player, number 44.
After graduating from USC, Rudometkin went on to play three season with the NBA. He was drafted by New York and played for them two years and then transferred to San Francisco and during his year there was diagnosed with cancer in his chest near his lungs and heart.
The cancer ended his basketball career, but gave him a life-long cause encouraging cancer survivors and battling the disease. Rudometkin was often a speaker for Adventist youth events in the 1960s and over several decades. The Los Angeles Times remembers him as a minister of the gospel, although he made his living from real estate investments and as a motivational speaker.
His story was published in Rudo The Reckless Russian (1970, Pacific Press) by Adventist journalist Herb Ford. The book is still listed with Amazon.com both among used books and in a new edition in eBook format.
Rudometkin was survived by Carolyn, his wife of nearly 54 years; his sons, Ron, J.D. and Nathan; and three grandsons. His obituary was recently published in the journal of the denomination’s Pacific Union Conference.