Keeping it Going

Arkansas head coach Stan Heath chats with Hawgs Illustrated's Dudley E. Dawson about Ronnie Brewer's impending decision, signing recruit Patrick Beverley, his thoughts on Michael Washington's future and on what he will be looking for while hiring a new assistant coach.

It's been a good week for University of Arkansas basketball coach Stan Heath and no doubt he is hoping next week is just as favorable for his squad.

That's when Razorback junior star Ronnie Brewer must decide whether he is returning for his senior season or declaring for the NBA draft by the underclassman deadline of April 29.

"I know Ronnie is still taking his time and thinking everything over and getting information that he needs to make a solid decision," Heath said. "I want him to do what he thinks is best for himself, but obviously as a coach I would love to have him one more season."

Brewer certainly did his part to help out next season's UA squad this past weekend whether he decides to stay or go on a weekend where there were over 1,000 of the country's best prospects in Northwest Arkansas for the Real Deal on the Hill AAU Tournament.

He took recruit Patrick Beverley under his wing this past weekend on the Chicago hoops star's official visit and had a big part in the prospect's decision to sign with the Razorbacks on Wednesday.

"I can't say enough about Ronnie and he came to me and said he wanted to do it and do his best to get Patrick," Heath said. "That's the kind of class guy Ronnie is, how much he cares about this state and how much he cares about this University and our basketball program."

The Razorbacks' signing of Beverley put a capper on their 2006 recruiting class that also includes 6-3 combo guard Stefan Welsh, 6-6 junior college standout Sonny Weems of UA-Fort Smith and 6-10, 235-pound forward Michael Washington of Genesis One Christian Academy, who will join Mississippi State point guard transfers as newcomers on the Arkansas roster next season.

Heath noted that both Beverley and Welsh are guards who take as much pride in their defense as they do in their standout offensive games.

"Usually when stars come out of high school , they are all about the offense and not too big on defense," Heath said. "But that is not the case on either Stefan or Patrick. They love playing defense. They are both wanting me to press from baseline-to-baseline from the first minute of the game next season so they can get some steals and easy baskets and I think we are going to be able to do much more of that because of guys like them and Sonny and Gary coming into the program with that type of mentality."

Heath, while understandly tight-lipped as most college coaches are about the issue surrounding prep schools and eligibility of prospects across the country, did express support of Washington.

The NCAA plans to have a decision on the eligibility of institutions and their prospect by early June.

"I am very supportive of the young man and the school he is at is not one of these places where kids just show up and do nothing," Heath said. "He goes to class, does his work and it is a very disciplined place. I am supportive of our school's position on this issue, but you would have to talk to them on that. I think things are going to be fine and he will be with us next season."

Heath is also in the process of hiring a new assistant coach to replace Ronny Thompson, who left to become head coach at Ball State.

It's the fourth time in three years he will be in the market for a new assistant with three of those having gone on to take over their own programs.

"We've been fortunate to have good assistants that other people want to put in charge of their programs," Heath said. "That's a big compliment to what we are doing and building here."

Heath is already hearing plenty of recommendations from fans - some wanting him to hire an assistant coach that is adept at handling big players, others wanting the best recruiter out there, some thinking he needs to hire somebody from the South and even a group in Central Arkansas clamoring for him to hire local coach Charles Baker, who was last an assistant at Kansas State.

Former Cleveland State head coach Mike Garland - who was an assistant with Heath at Michigan State and is known as an outstanding recruiter - and Milton Barnes, who has been a high school, college, professional and Harlem Globetrotters head coach and is an expert on offensive post play, are two names that have popped up.

"I know everybody has an idea what we should do," Heath said. "I think the important thing is to get the best guy available, somebody you trust and somebody who makes the program better. That' the important things to me."

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