FAYETTEVILLE — If Arkansas junior Dontell Jefferson is the prototypical point guard, then sophomore Ronnie Brewer is Version 2.0.
In a season when eight of 12 Southeastern Conference teams — including the Razorbacks — are changing point guards, Arkansas coach Stan Heath already has his next generation in place.
Unlike Alabama, Mississippi State and Kentucky, who will look to true freshmen or sophomores to take over roles long held by upperclassmen, Arkansas has the luxury of depth, experience and confidence at the point.
Jefferson is a smooth player and taller than average at the position standing 6-foot-4. He averaged 9.2 assists at Atlanta Metropolitan College last year and has a solid offensive game to go with his pass-first mentality.
The versatile Brewer may just be a sophomore, like Mississippi State's Timmy Bowers replacement Gary Ervin, but Brewer is seasoned beyond his years after playing a team-high 32.4 minutes a game last year and earned freshman All-SEC and All-American honors.
Junior Eric Ferguson started 46 of 56 games at the point in his first two seasons and is moving to more of a combo guard this year, but he is still the best on-ball defender at the position and has led Arkansas in assists in two of three exhibition games.
He is the top returning 3-point shooter (34.1 percent) and hit 3 of 4 coming off the bench to spark Arkansas in its 72-47 win against Texas A&M Commerce.
As a unit, Arkansas figures to create lots of matchup problems with the oversized combination of Brewer and Jefferson on the floor alternating at the point or by playing all three together.
All three can score, pass and defend and have the mix of skills that fit Heath's definition of a point guard.
"There are guys that have great leadership qualities, guys that have a great all-around floor game that can handle the ball, distribute, make good decisions," Heath said. "I've also found you can play a player at that position that can just make plays, can just make things happen.
"I feel we have three players who have the qualities to man that position."
Maintaining a three-man rotation at a position as vital as point guard couldn't be successful without the players buying in to the concept, and Heath has no problems on that front, either.
Ferguson, who had 78 assists and 55 turnovers last year, is glad to not have to carry the burden of running the offense alone any more.
"I can shoot the ball and pass the ball," Ferguson said. "Coach is doing something to help the team out and I felt good about it."
Jefferson didn't arrive on campus until just before the start of the fall semester but made friends quickly during pick-up games by figuring out where his new teammates like receiving the ball.
"It's a lot of fun," Jefferson said. "We can interchange and whenever I feel like I want a break from the point, he'll relieve me and vice versa. When we add Eric into the mix, we'll be even better."
Brewer, who led the Razorbacks in assists last year with 94 playing mostly off-guard, thought he would maintain that role during the summer until the coaching staff became intrigued during practice with the potential of both holding responsibility for starting the fastbreak and initiating the early offense.
"It's evolved," Brewer said. "I thought I was going to play the (shooting guard), but I think the coaches like the combination of both of us playing the (point). We play well together.
"Whoever gets the rebound makes the easiest outlet pass so we get it and start the offense. It's really nice."
Heath said he occasionally will determine how Brewer and Jefferson should alternate at the point depending on what kind of matchup problems they can cause.
If a strong defender is on Brewer, a likely scenario considering he was second in scoring for Arkansas and will be a target of most scouting reports, that would be another situation where Jefferson or Ferguson may run the point more to keep the offense running smoothly.
The trio all have the ability to keep teams aware of them defensively. Brewer is already a known scoring commodity, but Ferguson can drop the 3-pointer with regularity as well as drive and Jefferson has hit 11 of 16 shots from all distances in three exhibition games.
"Point guard has to make people play him honest," Heath said. "If you don't shoot, it hurts your team. If you're wide open and teams don't guard you, it hurts your team if you can't knock down open shots."
The point guard also has the have the one-one-one ability to be able to take over a possession with either the game clock or the shot clock ticking away.
Heath said it's a fine line between aggressiveness and selfishness, but Brewer and Jefferson have a handle on managing the game.
"Both have very good balance of that.," Heath said. "They keep the defense honest by being aggressive. If they need to break the offense and make a play with the clock winding down, they have a sense to do that. They play very well together. I like it when they alternate.
"I think that's difficult for teams to play against."
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