Steve: This is Steve from Calibre Fitness speaking with Andrew Gaze. How are you Andrew?

Andrew: Good thanks.

Steve: Andrew Gaze is arguably the one of the greatest Australian basketballers and NBL players in the history of the game; he's a 5 time Olympian, his career spanned 20 years and he played a record 612 games at the top level here in Australia, he was top scorer in the league on 14 occasions and won 7 MVP awards which is now known as the Andrew Gaze trophy. He is also the all-time leading goal scorer in Olympic Basketball history.

Steve: Andrew, you competed in 5 Olympic Games, what were the highlights of your Olympic experiences?

Andrew: They were all great experiences. I think that when I was a youngster, I grew up wanting to follow in my father's footsteps and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do that at a relatively young age and then fulfil a boyhood dream makes it all very special. But, the 200 Olympics in Sydney made it all that little bit more special to share that experience with the people that you've grown up with and your family and friends and those types of elements made it a little bit more special.

Steve: Sure. It must have been a massive honour to be chosen as the flag-bearer for the Sydney Olympics back in 2000. Do you still remember the moment you stepped into the stadium?

Andrew: Oh, absolutely! Walking into Stadium Australia in front of 120,000 people and introducing some of the greatest athletes this country has produced to the rest of the world is something you don't forget. A lot of the time you need to pinch yourself and say 'did that really just happen or was that some sort of fanciful dream', but it was reality for me and it was a very unique experience but more than anything I had a strong sense of gratitude for just being selected and given that opportunity was a remarkable thing and as I said, yeh very grateful to have been able to have that experience.

Steve: Yeh, absolutely. I read that you think it would be best for the NBL to adopt a promotion-relegation style competition, could you tell us a bit about that? Is it gaining any traction?

Andrew: I think you're referring to a promotion/relegation type situation which is what we see in most team sports throughout Europe. Whether it's soccer, basketball or volleyball, most of the time it's done with a promotion/relegation system. It gives the smaller clubs, at the very least, an avenue to peruse to try to compete at the highest level. I think here in Australia, we have a closed system, but I think that there are many smaller clubs that have the potential to expand and those that have a long term vision to want to play at the highest level. But unfortunately our system really doesn't allow it. So I, having played in Europe, like that system. I think it's fair and it provides a set of rules and regulations for which associations could adopt to put in place a system whereby, at the very least, they have some avenue or pathway to the highest level.

Steve: Yep, sure. Andrew, what do you do to keep fit these days? Do you do any type of training still?

Andrew: Yeh, I still play on a Monday night, just in a domestic comp at the Melbourne sports and aquatics centre. Some of my old teammates, we get down there and have a bit of a run around. Certainly, even just at a recreational level, you're still running up and down and getting a pretty decent workout in. Then 3-4 times a week I just try to go to the gym and do some fairly passive resistance type training. It's always good to do that with a partner and for the past few months a former teammate of mine, Mark Bradtke, has been coming down once or twice a week to help me out. So, I wouldn't say it was necessarily as strenuous as it was when we were competing, but nevertheless, it's not too much about the wins and losses any more, it's just about life expectancy and longevity!

Steve: Exactly, haha. I like that. You led the Tigers to a couple of titles under your dad, Lindsay's, coaching. Have you ever thought about making the move into coaching yourself?

Andrew: Yeh, I currently coaching at the junior level, well... I shouldn't say junior, it's 'youth level', so 22 and under. Prior to that, I coached at the under 18 level and each year I have some senior coaching experience, where I take a team to China, like an all-star team. I select some players who are available from the current competition to play against some of the club teams in China. So I've definitely kept in touch with the sport and been able to maintain a bit of an interest through some of those experiences and right now I'm enjoying doing other things; I do a fair bit in the media and I'm on the board of Basketball Australia. They've both been a real challenge, but I'm enjoying them thoroughly. Hopefully the opportunity to coach at a senior level doesn't pass me by, but I can't see that in the immediate future that'd be something that I'd want to jump into, but perhaps down the track once things evolve a little bit, once I'm not enjoying the things I'm doing currently as much, then I might look to step into that.

Steve: Can you tell us a bit about your time playing College Basketball in the States?

Andrew: I played at the University Of Seton Hall; it was only a relatively short period of time. I went there back in the 1988-1989 season. It was only for 1 season; I was a student there, so I was part of the school community as well and played in the basketball team. I was fortunate enough that the team that I was on went all the way through to the championship game. Unfortunately we lost the championship game, it was played at the Kingdome which is no longer there, but it was an old indoor football stadium. There was something like 50,000 people at the game and unfortunately we lost by 1 point in overtime. So the fairytale never really eventuated as we would have liked, but it was a fantastic experience and I loved every minute of being over there and living the college life and having an opportunity to play at that level.

Steve: Yeh, sure. At the late age of 33, you headed across to play NBA with the San Antonio Spurs. I'm sure that would have been a great experience for you also...

Andrew: Yeh, it was. It was a pretty late call up, I'd had a little bit of NBA experience back in 1993 when I was about 28 with the Washington Bullets and that was great, but it was only a short-term contract near the end of the season, but at least I got that experience. I thought that was basically it and my time was up as far as NBA opportunities were concerned. But then in 1999, Gregg Popovich, the coach of the San Antonio Spurs, he saw me playing for Australia at the 1998 world championships. So, he was keen and thought that I could play a role. It was very much an insurance policy type role. I was there and I would work hard and play behind some of the superstars in the team. So I was there mainly just in case one of them were to break down. It was a relatively cheap insurance policy for them and although I didn't really get to play too much, the team did really well, went through and won the NBA title, and although I never really had a significant role in that title win, I was still very grateful for the opportunity and enjoyed my time competing for the San Antonio Spurs.

Steve: Have there been any particularly bad injuries you've endured while playing basketball?

Andrew: Well, I guess they're all relative, but I've had a couple of knee surgeries for meniscus cartilage type issues, I had a couple of ankle operations due to bone spurs and just some tendon problems. Probably the worst injury that kept me out for a while in terms of a straight sports-related injury was, I did some damage to a tendon in my ankle and I had to have a couple of surgeries to try to fix that one up, so that kept me out for about 3-4 months. So that was probably the nastiest of all in terms of sports injuries. Outside of sport, I got a graze on my knee and somehow got a streptococcal B virus in my knee, I shouldn't say virus, it was more of an infection and that was probably one of the most painful experiences I've ever had. I was in hospital for 10 days and I needed to have a couple of surgeries to try to drain it. So that was a nasty one and the other nasty one was, I had a blood clot in my right auxiliary vein in my arm. That caused a bit of trouble because it spread to my lungs a little bit, that was another time I was out for about 4-5 months mainly due to the medication that they had to put me on to try to help me through that one. Those two weren't specifically sports-related injuries, but never the less, the problems that I had with my health interfered with my competition program.

Steve: Yep. You have 4 kids, I believe. How old are they now and do you already have them playing basketball?

Andrew: Yeh, they all play. My eldest is turning 19 this year and she's actually off to college as well, she's off to the United States on a scholarship, so she's looking forward to that and then I've got another daughter who's turning 17 and she plays in the under 18s, I've got another daughter that's 14 and she's playing in the under 16s and my son is turning 12 and he's playing in the under 12s. They all love the game and get a lot of enjoyment out of it and hopefully they continue to develop and have fun with the sport, that's the most important thing.

Steve: Yeh, absolutely. If you could have complete power and change anything you want in the NBL, what would you change?

Andrew: I think the process, like we were talking about before, the process of expansion and the process of providing clubs the opportunity to compete at the highest level. I think that we've got a lot of great grassroots associations throughout the country who maybe, if they were given an avenue to compete at the highest level, then they would aspire to do that and continue to grow and develop their programs to allow their club to play at the highest level. So, I'd love to see an expansion of the competition and just provide more opportunities for players to play at the highest level.

Steve: Yep, sure... and just finally Andrew, are there any up-and-coming basketballers that you are particularly excited about? Other than your kids, of course!

Andrew: Haha, yeah, of course. There's a lot actually. Last year our under 18 national team won the silver medal at the world championships and I think that's indicative of some of the young talent that we've got coming through the ranks and, in fact, a couple of my former teammates have got sons that look like being bonafied superstars. Ben Simmons is the son of Dave Simmons, a teammate of mine who I played throughout the 90's with and his son is only 16-17, but he looks like a really strong prospect. Another one is, Dante Exum who is the son of Cecil Exum, who played here in Australia for a number of teams; he played one season with the Melbourne Tigers as well, and his son is highly regarded on the radar of many NBA teams as well. Although he's still only very young, he's been recognised as NBA talent. Another one is Jack Purchase, the son of Nigel Purchase, another former teammate of mine; he's 17 and was on that junior team that won the silver medal last year at the world junior championships. He's a 6'8 guy that can shoot. He's got a very bright future. Another one actually, Dane Pitto, another former teammate of mine, his son has just signed on to go to the university of St Mary's in the United States. So there's a lot of really good talent, them along with many others, bur I probably know more about those because they are sons of former teammates of mine that I kept an eye on.

Steve: Yeh, sure, fantastic. Well, thanks very much for your time Andrew, I really appreciate it and I hope everything works out for your kids and I'm excited to watch them play.

Andrew: No worries, Good on ya!