Values..... My values, the value in capitalising on hidden talent pools in Australian basketball
Updated: Apr 13
Preface by Janx
Cal Bruton, one of the greats of Australian basketball, recently visited Adelaide as the special guest speaker for the Free Throw Foundation’s Lunch. Free Throw Foundation is an organisation right up Cal’s alley, as it is all about supporting disadvantaged athletes to participate in the sport.
During the visit Cal and I caught up. Something we’d been talking about doing for a couple of years. Someone with Cal’s depth of knowledge, experience and just general attitude to life is someone I really enjoy talking to, asking questions and learning from and so gratefully took up the opportunity spend time with him.
I also really enjoyed his commentary when featured athlete Isaac White had played the U of Washington Huskies in 2016, before heading over to Stanford, in the Pac 12, as a student athlete. After the game we reached out to each other through a mutual friend and Cal was one of the people whose evaluations we listened to, and trusted, on this young man.
VIDEO: Isaac White and Sydney University Vs U of Washington. Performances in this game and vs UCLA as a 17 year old helped Isaac's cause to get to Stanford. Along with Cal's commentary in the game.
Spending a few hours with the former Wichita State student athlete, who would go on to be one of the first inductees into the NBL half of fame, is entertaining, thought provoking and educational. His passion for the game is beyond doubt and he and his family, particularly his son and current Assistant Coach with the Brisbane Bullets, CJ, have truly impacted the sport on macro and micro levels over decades.
PICTURED: Cal went to Wichita State. A program that has recently emerged from mid major power to high major program, consistently ranked in US College Basketball. Here is Cal with Gregg Marshall (HC Wichita State) on a recent visit to his old school.
PICTURED: CJ Bruton, also one of Australia's/NBL's great players is now an Assistant Coach with the Brisbane Bullets.
Throughout our conversation the common themes were that basketball is more than a game, it’s a vehicle to the betterment of oneself in areas such as personal resilience and teamwork. He is particularly passionate about helping young, indigenous, and African, Australians and financially disadvantaged communities and groups. His programs help youth develop holistically, and he tries to focus them on overcoming adversity in their life stating his catch-cry of “a successful man can always build a castle from the bricks thrown at him”. The programs have been successfully delivered in every state and territory in Australia and as it turns out I got to checkout the first one in Adelaide. A packed session with lots of appreciative kids, loving every minute of it.
Over to Cal
My journey has been a challenging one with plenty of magnificent highs and a number of difficult lows. The highs have obviously been my kids born here and my older ones being brought up in Australia. The lows have come with my career. Being a pioneer in Australian Basketball, as a Black American with a family presents all sorts of challenges. Being isolated is tough to deal with at times, still to this present day. There were racial undertones we had to deal with, as well as social, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and financial circumstances, situations we had to overcome. We have overcome them but not without some sacrifices. Moving from state to state, school to school and job to job tested my family and I intestinal fortitude and made us become resilient, mentally tough and adaptable. Now 40 years on and we are still here and multiplying.
PICTURED: Cal had a 13 year playing career in the NBL. Playing at Brisbane Bullets, Geelong Supercats, Perth Wildcats and Hobart Devils. The NBL Hall of Famer registering 250 games. He won an NBL title as a player with the Brisbane Bullets. Amazingly he was also able to take the Perth Wildcats to the NBL Championship game as a player/coach before winning an NBL title as a coach of the team a couple of years later.
People of impact
People that have helped me through this journey has been almost too many to mentioned, but I’ll speak on those close to my heart. I have to start with my Dad and my Mom whom I’ve only had in my life for a very short time. My dad TC Bruton died in 1962 and only had only one hand and nothing stopped him from doing anything. My mom Ann Bruton, passed away in 1988, being a single mom with 3 kids, one intellectually handicapped, albino and pregnant with my baby sister when my dad died. She taught us resilience, respect and resolve. They both provided me with so much drive, desire, discipline dedication and determination, to go after what I wanted. My own family now gives me my inspiration. My Junior High School, High School Coaches, Mr Marvin Miller, JHS 231, was a rock for me. Mr Miller taught me about different sports, health, hygiene but more importantly he invited me into his home with his family. Mr Miller was a white man. Up until that point in my life (13 years old), I had never been in a white person’s home before, less more with a family. That open my eyes in more ways than one. Mr Richard Bethel (RIP) my football coach and black father figure, had given me a total perspective of what it was all about being a black young man. He encouraged me to be, grateful, thankful and standup for my family and myself. Mr Martin Fienstein, Chuck was my baseball coach, also a father figure, another white male role model, who accepted me as a member of his family and followed my career up until he passed away and to this day I’m still in contact with his wife Ann and his children. Dave Adkins, “The Doc” change my life by recruiting me to Australia and giving me this wonderful opportunity. Ricky Marsh, my best friend from childhood and always supporting me in time of need and my family. Rex Stewart, Geelong (RIP). Was “the man with a plan that put the keys of the Geelong Basketball Club in my hands”. I drove it to many successes for the basketball community. Robert Williams, Bob gave me a chance to turn a losing program into a winning one. He help lift my family and I to great heights. He gave me the opportunity to be a “Professional”, for the first time in my life. Kerry Stokes, gave me the best opportunity to change the course of Australian Basketball by sending me to the states to bring back a project, NBA Entertainment and to also connect Australian Basketball with the NBA.
PICTURED: Media mogul Kerry Stokes who had a big impact on bringing the NBA into Australian homes.
There are so many more, Senator Peter Cook, (RIP), Professor Ron Cacioppe, Mark Manado, my Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander mentor and Marilyn Morgan, my female version of the same. Most importantly though are, the mothers of my children, Patricia Newman-Bruton, Lana Kennedy and my “Bestie” Julija Deleva, my beautiful partner.
Values Developed in the journey The values that I have developed would probably center around my “SWAG” acronym. S= Skill Set. My commitment to learning, developing and improving my skills sets in as many different arenas as possible. W= Work ethic. I refused to let anyone outworked me, I will work hard toward reaching and achieving my goals. A= My Attitude is my Altitude. I try to become the best possible person I’m capable of becoming, in an environment that’s sometimes toxic with negativity and racism. G= Goals. I write them down, check ✅ them , reset them and aim higher, until I achieve them.
Cal Bruton basketball, how it started and why? Bruton Basketball started as a result of myself not being able to watch my sons play/coach their games on the weekend. At the time (2003) I was a luxury car-salesman and for the next 11 years I never had the time to watch them, at their practices or games, particularly on the weekends. So I created this basketball business, a model that would give me and my family the opportunity to spend time together so we, as a team, could deliver a skill set to the youth through basketball, that’s grown Australia wide and known as the Bruton Fundamentals Clinics.
PICTURED: The effervescent Cal Bruton brings his love for the game, forever positive attitude, knowledge and insights to 100s and 100s of kids each year through his Bruton Basketball. Pic Source, the Herald Sun
Vision for the future My vision is to continue to build on the Bruton Brand and assist young disadvantaged youth with sport, education and employment opportunities around Australia, using basketball as an engagement tool to create pathways. I would love, to one day have my own building/home, facility, fully equipped, whereby I could support those kids who are looking to improve their overall game, in the classroom and outside of it. Ideas for maximising opportunities for talent amongst the Indigenous and African Australians into Australian pathways (clubs, state high performance, Basketball Australia) All I can say to that, is if you’re going to maximize the talent in the Indigenous and African Australian community you need to get more exposure for them, more games, more access to technology, more tournaments, more global experiences and of course expose them to more knowledgeable coaches.
The travel experiences along with the education, sports development, life lessons could create the ultimate energy, spirit, sparkle and brilliance in a student athlete.
Just have a look at me 🏀 😊
PICTURED: Featured athlete Lat Mayen (TCU) is an example of the many talented, dedicated athletes from the Sudanese Australian Community. Cal feels these talented athletes can gain huge advantages with exposure, travel and educational mix in the United States.
Point guard play, hints, tips and tricks I was a player coach for half of my career and won championships, individual awards and honors. Being a point guard, I took a lot of pride in being a leader of my teams. (head of the snake). I truly feel if you want to be great, you have to put in perfect practice. Like make 100 free throws in a row at any time. However the main thing I hang my hat on is, being a good team player. You have to make sacrifices, make your teammates better, make them want to play with you, for you and trust that you, will make the right play at the right time. You also have to be very fit, so you can be an effective two-way player. My motto was to “Run, Stun and Have Some Fun.