State of the Hogs: The Brewers

During a long car drive recently, I thought about the great father-son tandems in the long history of the University of Arkansas.

The best football tandem had to be Billy Ray Smith and Billy Ray Jr. Both starred for the Hogs and in the NFL and not for just a short time.

Billy Ray Jr. provided my favorite Razorback quote when he was asked by sportswriter if the tie against SMU years ago in Texas Stadium "was a good tie or a bad tie." Billy Ray gently lifted the scribe's paisley tie, paused, then said, "That wasn't a bad tie today. But THIS is a bad tie."

The best father-son tandem to play hoops for the Razorbacks failed to produce any great one-liners Thursday at a press conference their family called to announce Ronnie Brewer's intentions to conditionally enter the NBA draft.

The best one came from Ronnie when he was asked if he had visited with his father on his options.

"A little bit," Ronnie said, flashing his best smile.

The conditions for Ronnie's decision to enter the draft? The Brewers have not hired an agent so Ronnie could still return to the Hogs if it doesn't look like the NBA wants him badly enough.

But Ron Brewer Sr. made it clear he doesn't expect his son to play any more for the Hogs. The former Razorback and NBA star said "my son is a pro right now. I want him to start thinking like a pro."

In my mind, Ron and Ronnie rank right there with Billy Ray and Billy Ray Jr. as the top two father-son players in UA history. Ronnie has yet to star in the NBA. That will happen sooner rather than later.

I believe that. Ron Sr. believes that. He was clear on that Thursday when he discussed his son's future in a one-one-one session after the media briefing at Bud Walton Arena.

"Joe Johnson when he came to Arkansas, he was a pro," Ron said. "Ronnie, he's got a pro game, too. You put Ronnie on the wing and he can put the ball on the floor and dominate. He'll take them off the dribble. Or, he can be a great point guard, perhaps one of the greatest. He could be like a Steve Nash or a Magic Johnson. He really can.

"What you haven't seen yet is Ronnie play with others around him that are just as good. That's when all the things he can do will really come forward.

"I'm an NBA guy. I know general managers. I know vice presidents in the league. They are my friends. They can't say anything to you, but they are my friends and they can talk to me. The feedback is very positive."

How positive? Ron Sr. indicated he expects his son would be a lottery pick. That means Ronnie would go in the top 13 of the June draft. Ronnie indicated Thursday that he'll leave his name in the draft if finds he'll go in the top 20.

"I think he is a top 10 pick," Ron said. "I think he may be in the top five. One team that could pick as high as No. 2 tells me they want him. Others tell me they are dying to try to trade up to get him."

Ronnie still has to go through the NBA's physical. And, he has to participate in workouts. Either one of those could cause his stock to drop. After he's done with those, he'll seek feedback and then make a decision to leave his name in the draft or return.

"He's going to be great in the workouts," Ron said. "I'm working him out right now. I know what they are going to look for and they will love Ronnie."

Ron Sr. said his workouts with his son are both taxing and enjoyable.

"He understands that I don't take half," Ron said. "He's got to be all in. He knows I've been that way. I demand a lot and he gives it everything. He wants to improve his weaknesses and he's working so hard on them."

And they are?

"He is not a great defender," Ron Sr. said. "He doesn't play defense the Eddie Sutton way, but he can. He's not been asked to play that way. I don't worry about that. It's an area he'll be forced to improve and that's the good news -- he can get even better.

"His shooting? He's heard people doubt him and all that does is make him work harder. He's been taking extra shots every day and night. He called me the other night when I was ready for bed and asked if I had the keys to the gym. I did, but I said it was a little late. He begged me to come with him. It was 11:30 at night and we went to the gym.

"He'll improve his shooting, but that's not what he has to do to play in the league. I'm more impressed with a mid-range and he has that and it can get better. That's what will be his strength. He won't have to shoot threes in the league."

The key will be his ability to play and pass from several positions.

"He may be one of the best passers to ever play the game before he's done," Ron Sr. said. "I have been saying that he can end up like a Steve Nash or a Magic. He can really pass it and that's going to be used more at the next level."

At that point, Ron Sr. took a deep breath. He chose his words carefully and slowly. He wanted to make sure he was understood.

"This next part is tough to say because it can be taken wrong," he said. "I've been seeing this since he was in junior high and thinking about it. It's actually scary. I keep thinking and dreaming about what he'll be like when he plays with people who are his equal or better. I've wanted that for him.

"He would never say that because he's so humble and he'd be talking about players he goes to battle with and he would never talk about them. But I did. I had to bring that to him and make him aware of what he'd be like with other great players.

"I had to be careful how I brought that to him. But I think it's the truth. He's going to be better when he plays with other players just like him. That's when some of his skills will become more obvious."

That's when all of his tools will be utilized in a grand way, when Ronnie plays with others who interpret and see the game the same way he does.

Perhaps that means anticipating the play that will come two passes later, or the slash to the lane that will become a dump pass instead of a shot.

How good will Ronnie Brewer be then? I'm not sure I even know.

It might take a little vision to answer that question. I know enough to feel safe about putting Ron and Ronnie Brewer on the same level as Billy Ray and Billy Ray Smith right now.

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