DraftExpress recently got a chance to catch up with one of its favorite sons in Utah shooting guard Ronnie Brewer
. The well-regarded prospect because somewhat of an afterthought after becoming a spectator for much of last year. But the gritty Arkansas product with the strong defensive game did more than sit during last season's run to the Western Conference Finals. Brewer took stock of what was going on around him, applied those lessons in the off-season, and earned himself the starting spot in just his second year in the league.
Brewer is off to a stellar start and doesn't look to be in any danger of ever seeing the sidelines again. With a great head on his shoulders and a versatile game at his disposal, Brewer could really add a dimension to this Jazz team that its lacked for years--a defensive stopper on the wing....Eric Weiss: Recap last season for us. You must have sat longer than youve sat in quite a while. What was that experience like, watching a successful season instead of contributing on the floor? Ronnie Brewer:
It was an experience
coming from college, youre used to being the man-- the go-to-guy. You know what to expect, how many minutes youre going to play, the offense kind of runs through you. Then coming in here [to Utah], I watched pretty much all year. I played sparingly, getting some spot time here and there.
It was kind of difficult, because it was a whole new change going from being the star to not getting any playing time. But I learned a lot from my teammates, it was a great experience as far as making it to the conference finals and learning from a great coach. He pretty much taught me how to work hard every day in practice, and that really helped me throughout the season and into the off-season to prepare for this season. Eric Weiss: Thats interesting. A lot of players talk about staying prepared and maintaining focus even when theyre not playing, but many fail to do so. Was there good communication between you and the coaching staff so far as to what they wanted you to work on and what their expectations were for you coming into this year? Ronnie Brewer:
Coming into last year, everyone, including myself, knew that coach Sloan was a tough coach and hard on rookies, so I knew that I would be getting spot time, if any time. I knew I wasnt going to have a major role or anything like that. Last season [Sloan] told me to keep doing the things I had been doing, get better at the things I was strong at, and work to improve my weaknesses. He told me to come back in great shape, because he felt that I could play a lot of minutes this year. He wanted me to work on my shot, so I could be another scoring option for this team.
So I took that to heart, went back to Arkansas and got a little stronger, worked on my conditioning, worked on my shot
.and I think its helped me so far. Eric Weiss: Who did you work with this off-season? Did you stay in Arkansas or did you travel around a bit and get some good games in with other pros? Walk us through your off-season. Ronnie Brewer:
I focused on working out primarily in Arkansas, working with Kelly Lambry who is the strength and conditioning coach at the University of Arkansas. Hes the one that worked with me from my freshman year into my junior year. I felt like he knew my body well and was familiar with my growth and development, so I worked with him on the strength and conditioning part.
I worked with my father a bit on the basketball aspects, worked with a couple of alumni guys in Jonathan Pargo and Brandon Dean who play overseas. We worked out with some University of Arkansas guys too, theyve got some up-and-comers.
I also went to Santa Barbara and worked at the P3 Performance facility because I tweaked my hamstring in summer league and messed my ankle up a little bit. So I went out there and worked on my quickness and agility a little bit.
Other than that, I really didnt travel too much because the seasons so long and youre on the road all the time. So I just stayed home with friends and family while at the same time working on making goals for this year. Eric Weiss: What do you think is the big difference in your game thats allowed you to take advantage of the opportunity to get into the starting lineup? Ronnie Brewer:
I feel like I came back with a lot more confidence. Last year, I was playing without the confidence I should have had, was timid, not aggressive going to the basket, shooting the ball, making passes. Now I feel like Im comfortable doing all those things. You can see that difference if you watched me in college.
My mom was right, my aggressiveness level wasnt where it needed to be. I wanted to prove to my coaches and teammates that I was an improved player so that they would have confidence in me. Once I did that by knocking down shots, going to the basket and working hard at finishing at the rim, it showed everyone that I was improved compared to last year. Once the approval level of your coaches and teammates is there, it really helps your confidence level as well. Eric Weiss: Can you talk a little more about being a go-to guy at the collegiate level to being a supporting player at the NBA level, and how difficult that transition is? Ronnie Brewer:
I wouldnt necessarily call it difficult. Weve got an All-Star in Carlos Boozer
, All Star in Mehmet Okur
, a soon-to-be All Star in Deron Williams
, former All Star Andrei Kirilenko
. So taking my place in the starting lineup, its not hard for me to take a supporting role next to four guys that are former or current All Stars. I know my role-- play hard, get easy baskets, and play off those guys. For me, its not really hard to play off guys with that much talent. Eric Weiss: One thing thats interesting in speaking about all these former or current All Stars is that youre all of a similar age, especially you and Deron Williams. All of you are under the age of 27-28, right? Does that help a little bit? Especially with Deron, hes only going into his third year and you into your second. Ronnie Brewer:
I think between me and him, weve got great communication. Me watching him last year and just studying his game from the bench and him having the opportunity this year in the pre-season and training camp to get together and play. To be able to get together and communicate with him on the court, especially on the defensive end, which is a big key to our team. Then on the offensive end, just reading his cuts, getting together on lobs, layups, curling and fading on jump shotsbasketball-wise, our communication is great.
Off the court its even better. Hes kind of a mentor because he went through his ups and downs with coach Sloan his rookie year. He didnt start until around his fortieth game, and he was the third overall pick in the draft. So he taught me how to work hard and let me know what coach Sloan would expect of me, and if I did that, how I could take the next step up to being a contributing player. I think hes really helped me a lot and I feel a lot of my success is because of him. Hes a leader on our team, the point guard, and everything goes through him.