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Ronnie Brewer: Then & Now

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FAYETTEVILLE – On a crisp October Saturday morning, the 67Ronnie Brewer, Jr. stands above the mass of humanity around him at the southwest corner of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Smiling, the 30-year-old local basketball legend greets one group of fans after another as they head into the stadium to see the Hogs play Auburn. Every minute, it seems, someone new approaches with hands outstretched. Brewer is every bit in his element.

This is the community and the alma mater he feels help propel him to the success he achieved in the last decade: an honorable mention All-American honor to cap a stellar three-year run as a Razorback, a 2006 NBA Draft selection at No. 14 overall and then an eight-year run in the League that Brewer is still training hard to continue.

As of late October, Brewer had not played in the NBA since a short stint with the Bulls in spring 2014. Still, hes stayed plenty busy. Brewer runs an annual local youth basketball camp and he and his father Ron – also a former Razorback basketball legend – check in with the current Razorback basketball team and staff almost every day. He returned to the classroom and finished his bachelors degree last May.

And hes been giving back.

Through his non-profit foundation, Ronnie Brewer donated $100,000 to the Donald W. Reynolds Boys & Girls Club in Fayetteville he says was vital to his early years. Brewer credits that club, now located west of Interstate 49 and the UA campus, with helping him find a home as a young child after moving to Fayetteville from Portland where Ron had played for the Trailblazers. Id say at least 60% of the of the people I know in Fayetteville to this day have some kind of connectionto that club, Ronnie says. Through basketball, sure, but also through other activities like art, flag football and soccer.

To honor Brewers contribution, the club named the court of a recently opened gym and teen life center building after him. The court entrance showcases his name and a cartoon logo of Brewer depicting him in mid-crossover.  When Brewer first saw the honor,  it made very excitedhe recalls. It made me feel really proud that even when Im not around on this earth that that legacy can still be here.

The Ronnie Brewer Foundation has been a family affair since it started more than seven years ago. Brewers parents help run it along with his sister, Candice Graham. Over the years, they have given away turkeys, toys, coats, backpacks, air conditioners, toys and more to families in need across northwest Arkansas.

Many current and former Razorback basketball players have volunteered at events run by Brewers foundation. During his summer basketball camp, for example, Anton Beard, Keaton Miles and Moses Kingsley all helped. Others such as Kikko Haydar and Fred Gulley, who like Brewer had starred at Fayetteville High School, would volunteer their time with different things I had going on, just to show they supported me and they supported what I was doing in the community.

Ronnies mother Carolyn Brewer, who grew up in the poor town of Ogden outside of Texarkana, says she stressed generosity. I tried to teach my children Whatever you have, share it, because God gives back to you.”  

Carolyn also emphasized finishing college.

Her son put off finishing his degree in sports journalism since he left a season early for the pros. But hed made a promise to finish it, and used his off year as a chance to finally do it. The reason why I came back is I couldnt look my daughter in the eye – or my mom and dad, nieces and nephews and people around – and tell them honestly Hey, its important to go back to school. Its important to focus in schoolwhen I didnt have a degree of my own.

Back in school Brewer found himself in a unique position: He took classes in a journalism department to which he had donated $50,000 for a scholarship fund years earlier. I know a lot of people in Arkansas whod die to come to the [University] of Arkansas, and sometimes they cant or when do they do theyre strugglingfinancially, he says. Its major if you can help somebody else just a little bit.

So, did that donation mean Brewer expected to get an Ain all his classes?

Yeah, thats what a lot of my professors kind of joked about,he says, chuckling. They were like Oh, you donated that because you knew you were going to come back, since you made a promise to your mom, and you didnt want us to be too harsh on you.

I was like No, honestly, I didnt even know when I was going to come back.

As of late October, Brewer was still back in Fayetteville, still mentoring basketball players while helping lay the financial foundation for the next phase of his life. He says hes partnered with astute businessmen friends in the area to make low riskinvestments to ensure the millions he made in the NBA dont disappear.

At this point hes still too invested in his playing career, which may resume in the NBA, the NBDL (NBAs minor league) or abroad, to know exactly how hell use his wealth, his degree and vast personal network down the line.

But its a fair bet whatever the future holds for Ronnie Brewer, it will involve his beloved alma mater and the northwest Arkansas community at large.

 

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