Ronnie Brewer brings experience and unique stroke to Santa Cruz Warriors
One of the oldest clichés in sports journalism is the narrative of an athlete who, when faced with hardship, works night and day to prove doubters wrong. Usually these tales happen in young adulthood—maybe getting cut from a team, forgotten in college recruiting or skipped over in the draft. For some players, though, the going gets tough much earlier on.
Ronnie Brewer, a small forward and shooting guard for the Santa Cruz Warriors, faced his first major obstacle at age 10, when he broke his arm, suffering a compound fracture on a waterslide. Ever since, Brewer has been unable to raise the ball over his head to take a basketball shot with proper form. Instead, he holds the basketball closer to his face with his elbows bent and shoves the ball up into the air.
“The way my arm set made me shoot the way that I did, and I just practiced over the years and tried to make it repetitious, and it’d go in,” says Brewer, who was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2006 and has eight years of NBA experience. “It got me to where I am, and it’s never perfect. That’s why you practice it. I continue to work every day on it.”
Brewer’s father Ron was an eight-year player in the league. Big on fundamentals, the elder player felt that if someone wasn’t going to play the right way and make the right decisions on both offense and defense, they shouldn’t bother playing at all. At first, his father assumed Brewer was just being rebellious by using an unorthodox stroke, but when he realized he couldn’t shoot any other way, they began working on his shot together to make it more consistent.
Brewer’s father warned him that people were going to criticize him, telling him to change his shot, but that if he got points, it didn’t matter. It was a lesson he would hear again when he met Roy Williams, a decorated basketball coach from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Kansas.
Brewer remembers Williams telling him, “Ronnie, there are going to be times in your life where people are going to tell you you can’t do something. You can’t listen to the naysayers. The only way you can stop them from saying you can’t do something is to go out there hard enough you change their mind. People are going to tell you to change your shot, [that] you need to do something different, that it will never go in. All you can do is work on it and make it where it’s natural and have confidence in it.”
Brewer, who is currently out with a pulled hamstring, has played only two games for the Santa Cruz Warriors, who are 5-4, and the team hopes to have him back soon. He averaged 6.5 points and 1.5 steals in 21 minutes. Part of Brewer’s immense value to Santa Cruz is his experience on a handful of NBA play-off teams. Brewer, who was waived by the Chicago Bulls in August, knows what it’s like to guard Kobe Bryant or Russell Westbrook. Just a few years ago, he was starting for NBA teams, and he’s only 30 years old.
Santa Cruz Coach Casey Hill and Pat Sund, the team’s associate general manager, were both amazed Brewer was still around for the 30th overall pick in this year’s D-League draft. Some players would be miffed about slipping so far in the draft, but Brewer says those numbers don’t matter, noting that there are players like Paul Millsap and Rajon Rondo who were taken after him in the 2006 NBA draft who are still contributors in the big leagues. He just wants to be on the court to prove he still works hard and can still ball.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of years of basketball left. I’m 30 years old,” Brewer says. “There are a lot of guys in the NBA that are a lot older. I’m still passionate about basketball. There’s a lot I can still learn.”
BOUNCING BACK Eight-year NBA veteran Ronnie Brewer, who’s currently out with a hamstring injury, comes to the Santa Cruz Warriors after having guarded stars like Kobe Bryant.