HORSHAM basketball star Aaron Bruce brought a little bit of the NBA to the Wimmera on Saturday night.
The Boomers guard attracted a sell- out crowd to Horsham basketball stadium for the Horsham Hornets match against the McKinnon Cougars which the Hornets won 119-88.
Horsham Hornets officials had to close the doors 15 minutes before game time after seating people down either end of the court.
Hornets officials estimated the crowd to be almost 700 people.
Bruce was stunned by the crowd and the reception he has received since he returned to Australia on Friday morning.
"I really didn't expect such a good response," Bruce said.
"But I am very thankful for the experience.
"It was a great thing for Horsham basketball."
The stadium's stand was full 30 minutes before the game and the line outside the stadium was lengthy as some unlucky fans were turned away.
Hornets captain Tim Pickert said the match was one of the biggest he had seen in Horsham.
"This would rank right at the top," Pickert said.
"Other than playing in championships this is the biggest game I have played in."
The former Baylor University star cut a lean and muscular figure in warm-ups as he joked with teammates and was watched from courtside by his US girlfriend, Witney Leasley, and his parents, Steve and Julie.
Bruce's performance on court was a mix of class and errors as he fought off jetlag and the rust of not having played a competitive game since mid-April.
Bruce struggled to find the basket in the first quarter but in the first play of the second quarter he opened his account with a long three-point shot and followed it with two more as the Hornets built a match-winning lead.
He also made a number of stunning passes, some of which ended up out of bounds.
But Bruce was just happy to be out on court with his two younger brothers, Cameron and Shaun, who he hadn't seen in two years.
"I am just very grateful," Bruce said.
"I really didn't think it would ever happen. It is one of the greatest things I will ever do."
Bruce finished with 17 points and added eight assists and three steals. He was replaced by rookie guard Matthew Nield with 3:27 to go in the match.
Shaun Bruce, 17, was over-awed at being able to take the court with his big brother.
"I am speechless," Shaun said.
"I have always wanted to do it but never thought it would happen."
Shaun was surprised by how much Aaron's body has changed.
"Cam and myself were surprised how he has filled out," Shaun said.
Shaun said the only disappointing part of the evening was that all three brothers weren't able to be on court at the same time.
"We probably would have done it later in the game," he said.
"But then Cam went and got himself fouled out."
Horsham teenager Jacinta Gray, 16, had the unnerving task of singing the national anthem before the game.
"I wasn't expecting this many people," Gray said.
"It was very nerve-racking."
Hornets coach Owen Hughan was pleased to see Aaron return to the Wimmera.
"The beauty of Aaron's achievements are that we have been able to develop a player like him from such a small region like the Wimmera," Hughan said.
Overall Hughan was pleased with the match and the evening.
"I hope some of the people who came tonight will come back in the future," Hughan said.
Match report - page 39.