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Gaze urges NBL to recruit NBA star power

BASKETBALL great Andrew Gaze has urged the NBL to make an audacious bid to recruit some of the biggest names in the sport to increase popularity and avoid another collapse.

Just as the A-League has done with Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey, Gaze hopes the NBL can attract some star power - potentially former NBA players - to promote the Australian competition.

Italian legend Del Piero has created a massive buzz in the struggling A-League with Sydney FC set to benefit from increased crowds and exposure.

The NBL has battled in recent years with teams struggling financially and the league on the brink of disaster.

Gaze - who was in Canberra yesterday for the Bruton 2 on 2 challenge - doesn't expect the NBL to be able to recruit NBA stars in their prime.

But the five-time Olympian said the league could pounce when high-profile players neared the end of their careers and being proactive was the key to success.

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''It's a challenge, to have the resources to do that and recruit those types of guys is difficult,'' Gaze said.

''If we get guys of the ilk that soccer has, it's all good and a win-win situation.

''Hopefully we can do the same in basketball where we can get guys who are still able to contribute at this level and I remember when they looked at getting someone like [Chicago Bulls players] Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

''That sort of recruitment creates a buzz that would be great for the NBL.''

Gaze made a flying visit to the capital to help former Canberra Cannons coach Cal Bruton in his attempt to make people ''fall in love'' with basketball again.

Bruton hosted a two-on-two tournament with more than 30 teams at Southern Cross Stadium yesterday and ''The Black Pearl'' was convinced to relive some of his glory days on the court as he celebrated his 58th birthday.

Bruton will take the tournament across Australia with the winners to play in Sydney for the chance to win a trip to the United States for an NBA experience.

This heavily modified version of basketball with three-minute quarters, a three-passes rule before scoring and a reduced shot clock is designed to teach emerging players the basics and ignite their passion for the sport.

Hall-of-Famer Bruton was part of the start of the basketball revolution in Australia, but has watched the NBL struggle in the past decade.

He teamed with Perth's Lloyd Dennis in the 31 years and over division after being coaxed on to the floor for just the second time in two years.

''I'm 58 and feeling great … well let me have an hour and then ask me how I'm feeling again,'' Bruton said.

''My jumper was on, I hit a few threes but I don't know if I can keep going.

''It's a great turnout here, a few spectators as well and Andrew [Gaze] was positive about this concept and the way it can develop.

''All these little two-on-two concepts will help get that buzz back in the game.''