University of Arkansas guard Ronnie Brewer is one of the top college basketball players in the country and is a returning junior for Stan Heath's Hogs. The Fayetteville native, whose parents both played college basketball for Arkansas as well, was one of just fifty players in the nation named to the Wooden Award Watch List earlier this fall. The Razorbacks, who went 18-12 a year ago, are looking to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001 and open up the regular season on November 18 against Portland State. (photo courtesy nbadraft.net)
RONNIE BREWER, UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
SCS.com: Your family is a Razorback family all the way. Your father Ron played hoops at Arkansas in the late 1970s and led UA to the Final Four in 1978 before being drafted 7th overall by Portland. Your mother Carolyn also played basketball at Arkansas during her college days. Talk about the influence your family has had on your life, both on and off the court.
Brewer: "My family has always been there since day one, and they really influenced me to come to Arkansas. If it wasn't for the way I was raised with two caring parents and loving, but tough, brothers and sisters, I wouldn't have grown up to be the man nor the player I am today. So I owe them a lot."
SCS.com: You were a Parade High School All-American and the state of Arkansas's Player of the Year your senior season at Fayetteville High School. With your strong ties to the University of Arkansas, did you ever consider going anywhere else besides UA? If so, where, and what ultimately made you decide to stay home and become a Razorback?
Brewer: "Of course I thought of going other places: Kansas because of (former KU, current UNC head coach) Roy Williams and a player from Fayetteville, Nick Bradford; Oklahoma State for the great coach (Eddie Sutton) and tradition; UCONN for the number of great wings Coach Calhoun produces that go on to the NBA; and Oklahoma. Some other schools were in contention, but I never thought highly of going there."
SCS.com: You stepped in and made a huge contribution your true freshman season. In fact, you were the only UA player to start all 28 games that season, averaging over a dozen points and five rebounds each night out. You were voted the team's MVP and were selected to multiple Freshman All-American teams. You picked up right where you left off in your sophomore season last year, averaging over 16 points and five rebounds a game. How were you able to make such a huge impact from the very beginning in a conference as tough as the SEC, and what do you think is the key to your success as a big-time college basketball player?
Brewer: "I think the key to success is having confidence in yourself and your teammates. No one will accept who you are until you do. No one will respect you until you respect yourself. Then you go from there. I try to play hard every possession and let the rest take care of itself."
SCS.com: The nation has recently taken notice in your abilities on the basketball court. You were one of only fifty players in the country named to the Wooden Award Watch List in August, a ranking of the top college players in the nation. What does this national exposure mean not only to you but also to your team and your school?
Brewer: "This means a lot for me and my team. We have the opportunity to do very well this year, and this is just the beginning. I feel that if I pay the price with hard work, the prize will be much bigger at the end of the tunnel. But the name of award is very prestigious, and I am honored to be named to the preseason team."
SCS.com: Though you will be the leader on this year's team, there is plenty of talent returning. Coach Stan Heath is being pressured to win games and win them soon or face losing his job. What kind of success do you see this team having in 2005-2006, and what part of your game have you worked on improving the most during the offseason?
Brewer: "There is pressure on the coach, but that's not a problem. We are playing so we have to take care of business. We have a lot of talent returning and we have matured, so we can make some noise in the SEC and nationally."
SCS.com: Speaking of Coach Heath, he came in to Arkansas after a very successful stint at Kent State. Though he continues to bring in some of the country's top talent, the win totals have not been quite as high as some would have liked. Does it hurt you as a player to hear people talk negatively about your coach, and does it provide a little extra motivation to know that you guys may be playing to save your coach's job this season?
Brewer: "I mean we have to play hard for our coach; that's all we can do. The wins will come. But we just have to focus on playing hard, and the rest will take care of itself."
SCS.com: You get to play in what is arguably the best conference in America, traveling to places like Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi State. Where is your favorite place to visit during the season, whether in the SEC or in another conference, and how much of an effect do you think the fans can have on the outcome of a game?
Brewer: "I mean every place you play, it's going to be a different experience. The SEC has a different atmosphere than any conference in the country, but I look forward to playing every team we come across."
SCS.com: Though playing on the road can be interesting, there is nothing like taking the court in front of the hometown fans. UA's Bud Walton Arena has seen the Hogs win over 80% of their games over the past eleven years, and Arkansas ranks in the top 15 nationally in terms of attendance virtually every season. Talk about the support you receive from the Razorback faithful and how much it means to you and the team.
Brewer: "We have some of the best fans, if not the best fans, in the country...win or lose, rain or shine. That's just how Razorback basketball is in Arkansas."
SCS.com: In recent years, the topic of paying college athletes has come up more and more. Some people say that since the players make so much money for their school, their conference, and the NCAA, they should be paid. Others disagree, saying that paying college players is not right because that is what professional sports is for. What is your opinion on this subject?
Brewer: "I mean it can go both ways. We do make a lot of money (for others), but it would be hard to control the flow distributed to the athletes and maybe some illegal NCAA matters come into place. But you're not allowed to work nor do you have the time to work during the season, so money can get low. Some assistance would be nice."
SCS.com: Many athletes have role models that guide their athletic and personal lives. Who is one person you look up to on the court and one person you admire off the court?
Brewer: "My dad and my brother. I looked up to them growing up, and they sort of shaped me and guided me into the right direction."
SCS.com: If a young player was reading this and aspired to become a successful basketball player, what advice would you give him?
Brewer: "To never give up on your dreams. You can do anything you set your mind to."
SCS.com would again like to thank Arkansas's Ronnie Brewer for taking time to answer our questions. We would like to wish he and the Razorbacks the best of luck throughout the upcoming season.
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