It was in the remote Western Australian town of Halls Creek that Cal Bruton was left to deal with one of the most confronting situations he had ever experienced.
A 12-year-old who was due to take part in a basketball clinic with the NBL legend took his own life.
"It was the most devastating thing I had ever witnessed all my life," says Bruton.
"I don't feel that those kids had opportunities and as a result I felt I had to do something about it."
Since that day more than ten years ago, Cal Bruton has lived out his calling, sharing his own secrets of life success to Australia's Indigenous kids.
"The kids saw no hope. That broke me down. I wouldn't leave until they got through their grieving and come back to the basketball court.
"I made sure I gave those kids something."
For the 63-year-old, who's dealt with his own share of trauma during a life that began in the unforgiving neighbourhood of Queens in New York, it was a moment of tragedy — but also purpose.
"I want to give them the ammunition they need to succeed — and it starts with education.
"They need their attitude to be their altitude," Bruton exclaims, with a sway of the hips, loose hands and a charismatic, Brooklyn smile.
"Currently there are no programs whatsoever nationally, for Indigenous kids."
That's despite the success of Patty Mills, whose skills on the basketball court have seen him become one of the household names of the NBA, in the United States.
Bruton's latest endeavour has seen him unite with charity group Charity Bounce, whose Stand Tall All Stars have recently been in action this week in Sydney, taking on a number of local schools.
Declan Walker is 16, and he has one of the team's brightest smiles.
Declan says his father was absent for most of his childhood and that forced his move to Sydney at a young age, to be with his Aunty.
He says coach Cal has shown him that anything's possible.
"Every time I think about giving up I just think about what coach Cal says," he said.
"Because he is an NBL legend it just helps me even more to know that someone that big can look at someone like me and say you can do it, just keep working hard and you will get there.
"He comes from a position that most of us boys come from. So we all look up to him as a huge role model. He does teach us very good lessons like keep smiling."
Bruton, one of the NBL's first imports in 1979, went on to enjoy a storied career here in Australia, a country that he would eventually go on to call his own.
After a championship as a player and a coach he was inducted into the NBL Hall of Fame in 1988.
Bruton says the engagement he is getting with kids through basketball is allowing him to emphasise the importance of pursuing an education above all.
If they are as committed to their calling as Cal is, the only way is up.