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Continued: Corey Brewer: The good life

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 27, 2007 - 7:06 PM

"The only way to babysit," Pee Wee Brewer said.

Pee Wee wore brown overalls, brown boots and a brown hat, so little Corey did, too. Glenda Brewer's "baby" drove the tractor when he was 7 and walked the tobacco rows, chopping, carrying, spiking the crop when he grew old enough.

His father perhaps became a casualty of his own relentless work: Heart problems robbed him of his vigor, but not his spirit. Diabetes claimed his left leg and placed him in a wheelchair, from where he watches every game his son plays on a big-screen television in a cozy year-old home that sits 50 feet from the trailer.

Corey's work ethic carried him from the farm fields and the backyard court to Tennessee schoolboy stardom and the University of Florida, where along with his teammates he turned down big NBA money and followed one NCAA title his sophomore season with another his junior year.

"I didn't know any better; I didn't know most kids didn't work like that until I was in high school," said Corey Brewer, the tallest employee at Hardee's once he reached high school. "I know what work is. I know how to work. I have no problem with doing extra work because if you want to be something, that's what you've got to do. I played basketball so I wouldn't have to go to work."

An all-around gifted athlete

Awakened well before dawn to beat the summer heat, he worked the fields until past noon. In the lazy afternoons, into the evening and past midnight, he and his brother, Jason Rogan, played one-on-one basketball on the little court, the swaying pines shading them from the blazing sun, a utility pole outfitted with a spotlight illuminating their games all night long.

"They both bounced the ball through the house while I was trying to sleep," said Glenda, who worked in the factories before taking a teaching job at Portland High and who still follows her son just about everywhere to see him play. "I'd holler at 'em, but they never listened."

The day's loser of those one-on-one games cleaned the room they shared, wiped the dishes, hauled the trash. Jason is five years older and later played at Tennessee-Chattanooga.

"First half of my life," Corey said when asked how often he did the chores. "He used to wake me in the middle of the night to be his practice dummy. That's how I learned to play defense. I was getting killed. I was cleaning up the room every day."

A promising little league pitcher and pee-wee football quarterback and part of an elementary-school precision dribbling team that traveled the Southeast, he was short, skinny and gifted.

Despite all the manual labor in his youth, the skinny part -- too skinny for a windstorm, a cousin says --still applies.

"I don't know," he said. "High metabolism, I think."

The short part doesn't apply anymore. He grew 6 inches after the eighth grade, when his middle-school team almost never lost with him and went winless after he broke his hand. He grew another 6 inches between his freshman and sophomore years.

Suddenly 6-8 and unstoppable, he attracted satchels of college recruiting letters after he joined the Tennessee Travelers AAU team. He transformed his hometown high school from a traditional football power into a basketball school when he led the Portland Panthers to their first state tournament his junior season.

The championship years

His mother wanted him to stay home and attend the University of Tennessee. So, too, did his neighbors and friends. Raised near the border, he coveted a scholarship offer from Kentucky but said Tubby Smith never offered one.

Convinced by a recruiting visit, he chose Florida, where Billy Donovan initially transformed a McDonald's prep All-America and 29.4-point scorer into a defensive specialist.

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    The Timberwolves negotiated on Saturday to buy out the contract of veteran forward Juwan Howard, a move that once finalized will get them to their 15-player roster limit by Monday's...

  • WOLVES SEASON OPENER 7 p.m. Friday vs. Denver, Target Center, Ch. 45, 106.1-FM COMING THIS WEEK Tuesday: NBA season preview: Is the East on the rise? Friday: Meet Al Jefferson and the rest of the new Wolves THE BREWER FILE Height: 6-9 • Weight: 185 pounds Position: F/G • Age: 21 (born March 5, 1986) College: Florida • Acquired: No. overall 7 pick, 2007 draft ON COREY BREWER The Wolves’ first-round pick himself and those people close to him on the two-time NCAA champion: Wolves teammate and former Florida teammate Chris Richard on Brewer’s hometown of Portland, Tenn.: “I’ve never been there. If Corey ever had some kind of charitable event, I’d go because I love doing those. But just for my leisure time, just to go for a vacation? Under no circumstances. Why would I? I’m from Florida. He’s small-town Tennessee. He has goats. We don’t have goats. I had a couple, two dogs, but no goats.” High school coach Tris Kington on the move from two-time national champ Florida to a completely remade, youthful Wolves team: “Minnesota’s going to have a rough year. I don’t know how he’s going to handle it. He’s never been a loser. In junior high, he won. Here, he won all the time. I’ve talked to him about it. One of my favorite sayings is you find out who your winners are when you lose. Guys that are losers get their heads down, start blaming their teammates, start blaming the coach. I’m going to be calling and talking to him and do everything I can. I hope he doesn’t get his head down.” Pee Wee Brewer on his son: “He loves to work. That’s probably why he plays ball so hard.” Corey Brewer on Corey Brewer: “I don’t know. I don’t lose. I don’t think about losing. I can’t worry about that happening.”
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