Regardless of what Adam Rogutich is doing, fighting gravity likely is involved.
On the basketball court, the 6-foot-2 1/2 senior often used his leaping ability – which maxes out at 37 inches vertically on the run – to score 11.7 points and grab 10.2 rebounds a game as Marengo (20-11) notched its best season since 2000.
Rogutich hopes to grab some rare air Sunday at the McHenry County Area All-Star Basketball Extravaganza, which will be in Alden-Hebron’s Tigard Gymnasium Sunday with the girls game starting at 2 p.m. The boys game is set for 5 p.m., with the dunk contest between the two games.
The All-Star game offers Rogutich one last opportunity to play with long-time friend and teammate Andrew Volkening and with Indians coach Will Benson, who will head the Away team.
In basketball parlance, Rogutich can figuratively be called a flier. In real life, he literally flies.
Rogutich received flying lessons for his 16th birthday and earned his license last year. What began as a fascination with planes when his father John took him to the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wis. about 12 years ago became a life’s love for Rogutich.
He will attend Indiana State next year and study in its Aviation Flight Technology bachelor’s program, then eventually become a professional pilot.
Once he had done his first solo flight, Rogutich knew he wanted to fly for a living.
“It’s the greatest feeling of accomplishment,” he said. “I enjoy it so much. I’d go every day if I had the money to rent the plane. It’s what I love to do. Being in the sky is calming and a real fun career.”
John Rogutich recalled his own father taking him to air shows. That likely had plenty to do with John becoming a licensed aircraft mechanic for American Airlines at O’Hare International Airport. Adam’s mother, Shari, also worked for American for 14 years as a flight attendant.
John helped Adam satisfy his needs with radio-controlled airplanes. They worked their way up to bigger models through the years. John said Adam was proficient enough that repairing damaged planes was minimal.
Eventually, Shari thought they should let Adam fly for real to see how much he really liked it. He took lessons at Poplar Grove Airport and now has close to 100 hours of flight time.
“Because I work on airplanes and have this awareness, there’s so many [safety] systems,” John Rogutich said. “It’s really very safe. Even small airplanes are very safe. If there’s a loss of power, you have a lot of options to do a non-powered landing and land safely without any occurrence at all. When he’s up in the air, he’s a professional. He’s very in-tune with everything he’s doing while he’s flying. It’s pretty impressive.”
Plane rental is $95 an hour for solo flights, and more when a person flies with an instructor. Rogutich has flown to Bloomington, Ill. and Madison, Wis. by himself on what are considered cross-country excursions, which require more than an hour of flight time.
Volkening is eagerly awaiting getting his turn to fly with Rogutich. In the meantime, he has tried his hand at the flight simulator on Rogutich’s computer, although not with great results.
“I’m awful at it. It’s much harder than you think,” Volkening said. “Then he gets on there and flies all over. And you try it and it’s ‘Whewwwwwww [crashing noise].’ ”
Rogutich and Volkening, a 6-6 center, have been teammates since fifth grade. They played significant roles on varsity since their sophomore year and were integral in the Indians’ first 20-win season since 2000.
The two also share a bond in that their favorite former NBA players are from an era long before they were born. Volkening, a left-hander, loves former Celtics big man Bill Russell, also a lefty. Rogutich digs the flash and mind-boggling talents of the late Pete Maravich.
With Rogutich’s hops, an old-timer like Julius Erving or David Thompson. Rogutich had three dunks in games, one at Ottawa, one at North Boone and a two-handed, alley-oop from Zach Knobloch in the Indians’ victory at Richmond-Burton.
“It was funny because we ran that play several times and he never dunked it,” Benson said. “It was pretty unexpected at the time. [Adam] is a really, really nice kid, he’ll do anything you ask him to do. He’s a very organized, smart kid. It’s pretty cool that he knows [flying] is what he wants to get into.”
Rogutich, who owns a 3.9 GPA and ranks 16th in his class of 170 students, says he naturally was a good jumper, but he worked at it too.
The favorite for the Extravaganza’s dunk contest likely will be Huntley senior Amanze Egekeze, a 6-8 forward headed to NCAA Division I Belmont, although Rogutich could be a threat.
“Freshman through senior year, I did a vertical jump program,” Rogutich said. “I went from grabbing the rim to getting almost my elbow above the rim. I really worked at it to get there.”