News

CJ Bruton connects with NT youth

For six-time NBL Champion and Olympian CJ Bruton, this Easter will be one for the books. The Brisbane Bullets assistant coach was an integral part of Basketball NT’s annual Easter Challenge, featuring a camp on Good Friday and mini-tournament on Saturday. Bruton flew to Darwin to headline the event – but the weekend wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. For 23 young Indigenous girls travelling from Ngukurr – a small closed community southeast of Darwin – it was almost an Easter to forget. John Hickey from the Roper Gulf Regional Council has used basketball to inspire the children of the Ngukurr community recently, and the Easter Challenge was an anticipated event on the calendar. Only the most committed and dedicated girls had been selected to go on the trip – a reward for attending school and their dedication to basketball training. They knew they were going to get the chance to show off their new skills on court and meet CJ Bruton. But, when they set to embark on the 635 kilometre journey, the local rivers flooded more than 200mm above the maximum that allowed them to drive. The delay meant they would miss the camp, but could still make it to the tournament on Saturday. That was until the front tyre of their bus blew out en-route early on Good Friday. With no mechanics available, all 23 girls and the entire Ngukurr crew slept overnight in a hall – some without blankets. “The belts on the air conditioner snapped and jammed up everything underneath, so I couldn’t drive any further,” Hickey told the NT News. “We had to arrange alternative transport, because there was no mechanic around who we could ask, ‘Can you fix this by tomorrow?’, so with the numbers we had to get three different vehicles.” The stop-start adventure continued the following day, but by the time they arrived the event was over. "Both days of the event I was working out kids from 5am until they had to leave. I wanted to be able to show them what the game means to me and how much fun it is to play," said Bruton, who was hosting both basketball coaching and mentoring clinics. Bruton thought he was finished up, until Rod Tremlett - High Performance and Development Manager at Basketball NT gave him the call to tell him the story. "Hearing that those girls weren't going to make it in time, I asked that they keep the gym open so I could help as many kids as possible while I was there and maximise my time. "With this group I got to reiterate the message that not everything will go according to plan, but with hard work you can still achieve results.
CJ loved spending time in Darwin over the Easter weekend. A photo posted by Brisbane Bullets (@brisbanebullets) on
“In the end, it was easily the highlight of my trip. To be able to put on a late clinic, and give them that individual attention was just as special for me as it was for them. "It was an amazing experience, to be able to connect with young Indigenous kids, people in the Darwin community and share my journey of basketball success and skills. “I’m really blessed to have the opportunities to give back, and this was a memorable one. I hope I’ll be able to return soon, with the new Brisbane Bullets team.”
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