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  John Rankin Tribute Page

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    John Rankin, a basketball star at West Catholic (class of '85) and Drexel and a detective in the Phila. Police Dept., died of leukemia in April 2003. John made everyone's "one of my favorite people" list and. This page was requested by Chris Arizin, one of John's Drexel teammates, and we're hoping, though more than three years have passed since John's death, that the response will be strong. Thank you.

Look below for the wonderful obituary done by Jack Morrison in the
Daily News, and for Ted's story about John from his West Catholic days.

Contributions . . .

  John Rankin, what a man's man, it was a honor to know him from the Phila Catholic and then the Phila police dept. When I accepted the head coaching position at Bishop McDevitt John called and said "Jack are you out of your mind taking that job no body can win at Mcdevitt" Well I proved him wrong getting into the playoffs in just the second year, John came to our playoff game at Judge and was laughing and said "I just said that to you to get you psyched and pissed off so you would get in. I never had a doubt that you could do it. " The next year John wanted to help me coach but could not find the time with work. We did not get in (Thanks John for all the great memories)
Jack Rutter
Head Boys Basketball Coach
Bishop McDevitt High School

  John was my roommate, teammate, and most of all friend. John had an positive impact on everyone he met.  He lit up a room as much, if not more, as he lit up opponents.
-- Chris Arizin

I had the privilege and pleasure of being John's coach at
West Catholic.
Although his ability on the basketball court spoke for itself, my
fondest memories of John
are of his consistent class, his ever engaging personality and his
never ending big smile!
John was the full package as a student athlete at West, i.e. a good
student, a terrific player
and an even better person.
John obviously went on to continued success on the court at Drexel and
on the streets of
Philadelphia as a decorated police officer, while all the while, I'm
sure, continuing to be a positive influence on all he touched along the way. 
I'm very grateful for the opportunity that I have had to be a friend
and coach of John's.
-- Pat Cassidy

This is Jay Wright from Villanova!!
I was an assistant under Eddie Burke @ Drexel in 86/87 :
We played Navy at the Palestra! Navy was top 20 with David Robinson. John was going to be matched up vs DR.  I was a first year D1 assistant! John looked at me in the locker room before the game and said - "you nervous, Coach? - don't worry we got this".  I was very nervous!  We played great so did John and we won!  We all ran up 33rd st to DU - John was so cool he kept telling me " I told you Coach - we got you ".  He was one of my favorite players of all time - very good student too!

  John and I played against each other in high school in some competitive battles in which he usually won. He was an intimidating competitor and an awesome player. When I found out that John was going to attend Drexel and I was going to room with him, I was even more intimidated.  But from that first day, we moved in, we were instant friends.  When my friends from my high school would come down to visit, John would give up his bed so my friends would have a place to crash.  My friends quickly became Johns friends and Johnís friends mine.
  There are many memories and stories that I could share, but my best memory of John which typifies who he was- One night my friends and I got into a little altercation with some neighborhood guys.  John found out and came racing outside in shorts and a tee-shirt in the freezing February cold to see how he could help.  He was not asked, but saw this as an opportunity to help his friends.  This is one action that described who John was- as a teammate, a friend, as a person.
  My children and I pray to John every night and I only wish my children had the opportunity to know John so that they may have someone to model themselves after.
-- Chris Arizin

  I have so many wonderful memories and stories about John but the one that I
will always remember happened two years after I had graduated from Drexel.
I decided to go and visit the basketball team during a practice.  I don't
know why but I remember feeling a little hesitant to interrupt the practice
at that time.  Maybe it was because it had been a few years since I had been
in contact with the team.  As I opened the gym door John immediately came
running towards me (all 6' 7" and 240 lbs. of him) with his arms wide open
to welcome me back.  I vividly remember feeling like a little kid as I was
wrapped up in his arms and literally lifted off the ground.  It was as
genuine and warm as it gets -- just like John.  He was a man with a huge
heart and a tremendous passion for life.  I am grateful for having shared
some beautiful life experiences both on and off the court with such a great
person.  May God Bless him and his family.
-- Patrick Rafferty

John and I were classmates at Drexel, and he was one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. His physical size was imposing, but he was always smiling, and everyone liked him. He was a great guy!!!

-- Craig Belcher


  John Rankin went from being a cyo rival at St Francis DeSales, I attended St. Barnabas, to my teammate and friend at West Catholic High School.  We played against each other for four years as grade schoolers with his team generally coming out on top. At that time there were many racial issues going on in the city and there was always some tension around our games. But you never got that from John even when others around him were a part of it. I was pretty tall myself and I remember just how intimidating John could be on the court as a young man. I didn't think of myself as a great player or anything especially compared to John but for some reason on our first day of high school at West Catholic he approached me and said how he couldn't wait for us to play freshman ball together. From that point on we became friends. It was probably my first friendship with someone of another race but it wasn't difficult to be friends with John, he embraced anybody not intimidated by his size. As a player myself I was average and ended up becoming John's protector(enforcer). Imagine that: John Rankin's enforcer. I never scored many points and often felt as though I wasn't a big contributor to the team but John always reminded that the little things I did were more valuable than I understood, and to know he respected that gave me pride. It's funny but almost five years after he has passed and his name just came up in my head and I decided to look for info about him and found this. I'm glad I did. I remember that Navy game Coach Wright talked about and how John played David Robinson to a dead even game and how one time he went way up above Robinson for a rebound and afterword looked over to me in the stands and winked. Keep soaring my friend until you can wink at me again.
Paul Duke McShane 
West Catholic Burrs
Class of 1985


Officer John Rankin, 'cut a big figure'
IT SEEMED as if the entire Philadelphia Police Department had rallied behind Detective John Rankin as he put up a valiant fight against leukemia.

Fellow officers gathered last month at Fraternal Order of Police headquarters to pull for him.

"It's a helluva fight he's in and we just want him to know he's loved and appreciated," said Rankin's boss, Lt. Michael Chitwood.

Musicians from across the city donated their time and talent to compose a song for him. Proceeds of the sale of the CD single, "A Song For John" go to the Rankin family.

All this outpouring of support was focused on an exceptional police officer, a man who not only was a superb crime investigator but a compassionate human being, always ready to help anyone - including the people he arrested.

John H. Rankin 3rd, an 11-year veteran of the force, last assigned to Chitwood's Special Investigations Unit in the Southwest Detective Division, died Friday. He was 36 and lived in West Oak Lane.

"I loved the guy like he was my own brother," Chitwood said. "He's going to be greatly missed. "

As an investigator, Rankin was among the best, Chitwood said.

"He was tireless," he said. "On a case, he had a relentless drive to find out what happened and why. He would work 24 hours, go home, sleep an hour, and come back.

"He would go after you as hard as anyone, but after he got you through the process, he'd ask you if you wanted something to eat, or make some phone calls.

"He would say, 'What you did is in the past. Be a man. There's no sense throwing your life away. Step up to the plate. '

"He believed in redemption. He would tell the people he arrested that when they served their time to give him a call and he would try to help them.

"He cut a big figure - in the department and in life. "

At 6-foot-8, Rankin was a gentle giant. He was an oustanding basketball player for West Catholic High School and Drexel University, where he scored 2,111 points and still ranks second on the school's all-time scoring list.

At West Catholic, he was All-Catholic. When any local sports writer put together an all-star high school or college team, Rankin was always included.

"John was full of life," said his partner, Detective Nate Williams. "He lived life to the fullest.

"He touched people in a positive way. He always reflected on the good in people. "

Crime victims whom he helped came back to find out how he was. "How's the big guy doing? " Williams said they would ask. "At work, he was the go-to guy. "

Rankin's efficient police work was reflected in the fact that he was the Daily News' Cop of the Week twice.

He was born in Philadelphia to John H. Rankin Jr. and the former Margaret Jenkins. He graduated from West Catholic in 1985.

At Drexel, he set the school record for points scored in a single game - 44 against Rider College in 1985.

He joined the force in 1991 and was assigned to the 19th District. He served on the police detachment at Overbrook High School before joining Chitwood's unit.

Rankin married Rachel Hunter in 1995.

He was raised a Catholic, but about seven years ago became a Muslim.

"He didn't say much about it," his mother said. "It was something he felt he needed to do. "

"As a son, he was a joy," his mother said. "He was very caring, very protective, very compassionate. He was a good husband and a good father. "

At the police benefit for him last month, a man he had arrested showed up. "He told us how John had helped him turn his life around," his mother said. "John was like that. He was just amazing. "

Besides his wife and parents, Rankin is survived by a daughter, Amani; two sons, Ismaael and Jaelen; three brothers, Anthony Rankin, Martese and Kevin Washington; and a sister, Regina Rankin Bryant.

Services: 1:30 p.m. today at the Clara Muhammad School, 46th Street and Wyalusing Avenue. Burial will be in Rolling Green Memorial Park, West Chester.




Every time you turn around, a 6-5 junior center from West Catholic is improving his rank among the city's top basketball big men.

That's because every time he gets the ball, John Rankin shows he can do more than merely turn around and shoot it.

When was the last time Rankin received a pass in the corner, made a crisp, four-dribble move into the lane, and uncorked a stylish jump shot that hit nothing but net - and barely hit that? Why, just yesterday, in fact.

Rankin lit up St. John Neumann's gym with 22 points on 8-for-16 and 6-for-9 shooting, 11 rebounds and six blocks as the Burrs prevailed, 74-71, in a Catholic South goodie. He also rendered obsolete the notion of some people that he's as mobile as the pillars in West's gym.

When West's Michael Brooks was shredding assorted defenses to the tune of 27.3 points per game eight years ago, people kept asking, "Great, but can he

put the ball on the floor? Super, but does his range extend past 12 to 15 feet? "

Brooks answered those questions with a resounding yes in college (La Salle) and the NBA. No one is saying Rankin is headed for such lofty heights, but he's showing he doesn't deserve to be dumped on.

"I had to re-evaluate my opinion of John near the end of last season," said West coach Pat Cassidy. "Then I had to re-evaluate it again shortly after the start of this season. So, I would have to say, 'No, I didn't think he would be this good, this quick.

"He's doing everything a player can do for his team; really, as much as a player has done for West since Brooks. As far as stats go, John is ahead of Brooks at this stage. Of course, Brooks had a sensational senior year. "

Even if Rankin has only a semi-sensational senior year in 1984-85, it would appear the college recruiters still will bang hard on his door.

Rankin ranks in the top fifth of his class academically and earlier this year scored 860 in the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test. If form holds, his scores in the regular SAT will surpass 900. And, in the personality department, his scores already are high.

"I haven't been feeling too well and at 8:30 this morning, John called to see how I was doing," Cassidy said. "He wasn't brown-nosing. He just did it because we have a good relationship. At West, everybody knows John Rankin. And it's not because he's a showoff. It's because he's a good person and he has a good personality. "

Good player? That, too.

"Marques Johnson did most of our scoring last year, but when he left, I knew there would be some slack to pick up," Rankin said. "I keep working harder in practice, and that leads to improvement in the games.

"There's still a lot of room for that, though. People might not notice, but I notice. Like I'll say, 'I should have got that rebound, I should have got that loose ball. ' People are always looking to see if you're getting better. If you're not, you can tell. You can also tell when you are. And when you are, you feel good about yourself. "

As a freshman, Rankin kept a close eye on ex-frontcourt stars Mark Kelly and Curtis Emery of West, as well as Monsignor Bonner's Rod Blake and ex-Roman star Dallas Comegys, and wondered how he ever would come close to matching their performances.

"But then you get out there, loosen up a little, and get in the flow," he said. "I didn't expect to play varsity last year. But coach threw me in there and I learned.

"You know, I get the same kind of feeling now. I look at (La Salle's) Steve Black or the other great college players and I say to myself, 'How will I ever fit in on that level? ' Well, if I work harder and harder, maybe getting the chance will come about. "

West, playing probably its best 16 minutes of the season, stormed to a 40-26 halftime lead yesterday, getting great performances from its stars and non-stars alike. By game's end, guard Art Trippett (18 points, nine assists), guard Sean O'Malley (8-for-10, 18) and forward Troy Davis (6-for-11, 14) all had numbers to rival Rankin's in one way or another.

Neumann was its usual numb-to-adversity self, however, and drew within 68-67 as Steve Benton knocked down two free throws with 2:06 remaining. West then reeled off six in a row - Rankin's basket on a pass from Trippett and one-and-one conversions by Davis and Rankin.

"We have a very unselfish team," Rankin said. "The first place Sean O'Malley looks when he gets the ball is to me. And if I'm open, I get it. And when you look at how much Art Trippett hustles, you can't help but do it yourself. "

Similarly, there are now times during practice when Rankin can't help grabbing a defensive rebound and steaming upcourt unaided.

"I wouldn't do it in a game, but practice is a little looser," he said, laughing. "Coach will blow the whistle and say, 'Uh, John, next time why don't you look up, give the ball to a guard? ' I know that's what I'm supposed to do, but . . . "

It never hurts to show you can do more than people think you can.