"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.