inducted October 2, 2008
In the early days of the National Basketball Association, Columbia’s own Walt Budko became one of its pioneers.
The sixth overall draft pick in the 1948 draft, he went on to play professionally for four seasons, including one as player-coach for the Baltimore Bullets.
Budko grew up in Brooklyn, and attended Franklin K. Lane High School and Trinity Prep. After high school, Budko continued his academic and basketball careers at Columbia. He arrived in September 1942 and made the varsity team in his first year under wartime eligibility rules. In his rookie season, he tied the all-time Columbia single-season scoring record by totaling 251 points in 18 games. Also in his first year, Budko played an astonishing 706 minutes out of a total of 720 minutes throughout the entire season.
Naval service split Budko’s tenure at Columbia after his sophomore year. Budko spent roughly three years in the Navy, 15 months of that time stationed in the Pacific. He returned in 1946 to finish his last two years at Columbia, newly married. In the 1946-47 season, Budko scored 315 points in 20 games setting a new Columbia record. A four-time All-Ivy League honoree, Budko graduated in 1948 with more basketball accolades than anyone who preceded him, bringing a new face to Columbia Basketball.
Budko played professionally in Baltimore and Philadelphia for four years. He eventually left basketball to join the business world, working as a construction engineer and in real estate sales before finding his calling in insurance sales.
Budko worked in insurance sales from 1958 until his retirement in 1995. He is married with four children, one of whom, Pete Budko, starred on the basketball court for the University of North Carolina.