Bruton’s time to shine

24 April 2012

Written by: Shane Palmer Palmer

April 24 will hold the championship-deciding game of the 2012 NBL Grand Final series, between the New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats.

Game one and two of the finals were led by a stellar cast of players, but it was the Breakers’ veteran guard CJ Bruton who stood out. Bruton led the Breakers, in front of a sell-out house at Vector Arena, to their 104-98 classic victory against the gallant Wildcats in game one.

It was in the overtime that Bruton strutted his stuff.

Bruton is a last quarter specialist – something unique which even an NBA MVP star like Lebron James fails to achieve.

In game one of this year’s finals he hit two three-pointers in overtime and with twenty seconds remaining; drove past a triple-team and hit a game-sealing running-hook-shot.

Yet there would be more to come in game two.

The hero of game one played the second grand final in Perth at Challenge Stadium on Friday, a place of strong sentimental value for him. Bruton’s father – NBL legend Cal Bruton Snr– played for Perth in his formative years; while Bruton Jr started his career at the Wildcats in 1994.

Bruton remembers growing up in Perth and watching the superstars of his father’s era play. ‘I grew up there. That’s the love I have for Perth. I love it dearly, my dad helped bring the franchise to where it is today.’

‘I remember in 1987 wiping the floors, and getting to see all the superstars play, learning from watching how they took control of different situations. I watched the fans fill that stadium and keep it packed till today. I’m proud of what they’ve done.’

Bruton’s brother and mother still live in Perth and to see them courtside at Challenge Stadium would add to the motivation Bruton is already thriving off – from his father’s legacy, his early playing days in Perth and his outstanding current 2012 finals performances.

‘I want to go there and show my mum and my brother and all the people who helped me get started in basketball that I’ve learned a lot over my time,’ said Bruton.

It would’ve been a fairytale ending for Bruton if the Breakers had of sealed the win at Perth’s Challenge Stadium in game two, but unfortunately this didn’t happen – the Breakers went down to the Wildcats by just one point, losing 87 – 86.

Bruton came away with 20 points from long range, shooting at 63 per cent. He even attempted what could’ve been a game and championship clinching shot, if not for an emphatic block from Shawn Redhage.

But the loss is unlikely to deter Bruton, who will be a major threat to the Wildcats in the deciding game three of the series. The superstar has vast experience – with a bag of old- school tricks, leadership qualities and a nous for intelligent plays in high pressure situations.

Success has always been a major element of Bruton’s career, as his achievements show.

Bruton has won a number of NBL Championships – in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2011. He was named 1999s most improved player of the NBL, has represented Australia with the Boomers, was selected for the All NBL first team in 2008/09, as well as the All NBL second team in 2007/08.

Bruton has also played overseas; he was selected as pick 57 in the second round of the 1997 NBA draft by Vancouver Grizzlies and also had a stint playing for the Portland Trailblazers.

His most recent success was with the Breakers. The Breakers made their mark on professional sport as they established themselves as the first professional franchise from New Zealand to win an Australian sporting league championship – the 2011 NBL grand final.

Bruton was outstanding in the 2011 finals against 2nd place Cairns.

Bruton’s skill, class and poise, stand him out as one of the league’s stars and Tuesday’s final should be no different.

In this year’s finals he hasn’t held back, and come Tuesday, it will again be Bruton’s time to shine.


Elaine Stockdale is a second year Bachelor of Sports Journalism at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter @StockdaleElaine