Rick Fires is a reporter and columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Brewer's basketball legacy began in Fort Smith
Arkansas guard Ron Brewer is shown in an undated photo. Prior to becoming a standout for the Razorbacks, Brewer was one of the greatest high school players in Arkansas history.
Who was the best athlete ever at your school? The sports staff of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette will highlight 14 former prep standouts over the next two weeks.
FAYETTEVILLE — Before Arkansas fans knew Ron Brewer as a member of the famed “Triplets” he was already a legend in Fort Smith.
Brewer played at Northside High School, which produced such stars as Almer Lee, Jerry Jennings, Jim King, and Eric Burnett for basketball, and Ravin Caldwell and Billy Joe Releford for football. But the athlete who achieved the most success was Brewer, who first earned statewide notoriety when he led Fort Smith Northside to a 30-0 record and an Overall state championship in 1974.
Brewer developed his game on the north end of town, where he competed as a youngster against a slew of talented former star athletes, including family members. Jennings watched Brewer emerge in junior high, and he said basketball wasn’t the only sport where Brewer excelled.
“Ron was a tremendous basketball player, but he was a really good baseball player as well,” said Jennings, a former longtime coach at Darby Junior High in Fort Smith. “It was in the eighth or ninth grade, I guess, when he really began to stand out. He was tall and lanky and very skilled at shooting and dribbling.”
Ron Brewer At a Glance
SCHOOL Fort Smith Northside
YEAR GRADUATED 1974
SPORTS PLAYED Basketball and baseball
WHY HIM? Part of the famed “Triplets” along with Sidney Moncrief of Little Rock Hall and Marvin Delph of Conway that lifted Arkansas basketball onto the national scene. … Led Fort Smith Northside to a 30-0 record in 1974 when the Grizzlies won state and overall championships. … The leading scorer and a top defender at point guard for the Grizzlies, who defeated Moncrief’s Hall team and Delph’s Conway team in postseason to complete 30-0 season in 1974. … Also a standout baseball player in Fort Smith. … Played one year at Westark (Arkansas-Fort Smith) and led the Lions to a 34-2 record before transferring to Arkansas. … Helped Arkansas to 77 victories in three seasons, where he received All-Southwest Conference and All-American honors. … Played eight seasons in the NBA, where he averaged 11.9 points per game and scored a career-high 44 points while playing for San Antonio.
Northside became one of the few schools in Arkansas’ largest classification to go undefeated when Brewer led the Grizzlies to a 30-0 record in 1974. Northside won the state championship then defeated a Conway team led by Marvin Delph, his future teammate at Arkansas, in the finals of the Overall State Tournament. Brewer then followed his high school coach Gayle Kaundart to Westark College (now Arkansas-Fort Smith) before he teamed with Delph and Sidney Moncrief of Little Rock Hall to form the “Triplets” and lead Arkansas to national prominence under coach Eddie Sutton.
“Ron was a very special player and a go-to guy,” said Wes Kaundart, a former Northside teammate who graduated a year ahead of Brewer. “It wasn’t important to him that he had to score the most points. He was unselfish, and he was an excellent defender who gave great effort, which was required of anyone who played for Coach Kaundart.”
Brewer, whose nickname is “Boot”, was a 6-foot-4 point guard who set up the offense and was a top defender on the perimeter for the Razorbacks. He averaged 18 points and was selected as an NCAA All-American after helping lead the Razorbacks to the Final Four in 1978.
Brewer scored 20 points and hit a turnaround jumper at the buzzer from the top of the circle when Arkansas beat Notre Dame 71-69 in a third-place game that is no longer played in the NCAA Tournament.
“I knew it was in,” Brewer said last year in recalling a game-winning shot that is ingrained in the memory of longtime Razorback fans. “So, I kept running straight to the dressing room. But I had to turn around and come back to shake hands with the Notre Dame players.
“The toughest thing was that I was a senior, and I knew it was my last game playing for the Razorbacks.”
Brewer continued his success in professional basketball when he was selected to the NBA All-Rookie team after being selected seventh overall by Portland in the NBA draft. Brewer played eight seasons in the NBA, where he averaged 11.9 points.
In 1981, Brewer scored 39, 40, and 44 points for San Antonio as a replacement in the starting lineup for George “Iceman” Gervin, who missed those three games because of a bruised thigh. Gervin was selected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1996.
All three “Triplets” — Brewer, Delph, and Moncrief — are in the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
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