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Distinguished from teammates Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Taurean Green by his defensive reach and an unknown father, Corey turned down NBA millions when the entire crew changed its collective mind after winning that first NCAA title and returned to defend the championship after receiving a thunderous reception back in Gainesville. The fathers of Noah, Horford and Green all were professional athletes; Brewer said his dad always was famous to him.
"Money makes things harder if you think about it," he said. "People expect you to do things for them. Money's good and it's bad. I never felt like I was missing anything when I was growing up. We had a house. We had school. My pee-wee football team went undefeated two years in a row. My [youth] basketball team won the championship two years. I had a lot of friends."
A sign on the highway that leads from the interstate into Portland proclaims the town the home of country music star Ronnie McDowell and 2007 Final Four Most Outstanding Player Corey Brewer. Only the old-timers remember McDowell, who achieved fame 30 years ago with a song called "The King is Gone," released just after the death of Elvis Presley.
Everyone in town knows Brewer, who signed autographs for 2½ hours in the high school gym when he was honored last spring following that second NCAA championship. He returns to speak to children and remind them that they can do big things even though they're from a small town.
"Everybody tells me it'd be easier to say I'm from Nashville," Brewer said. "That's not where I'm from. I'm from Portland, Tennessee. I love going home. I love where I come from."
He returned to Portland and the high school gym last summer -- between an NBA draft-night appearance in New York City, Las Vegas summer-league play and some commitments with sponsor Adidas -- and worked with his former coach for more than two hours daily, a practice routine that included 200 shots from behind the three-point arc in each court corner.
In July, after he signed a contract that pays him $2.5 million this season, he disappeared all afternoon one day. When he returned that evening, he hurried his mother along while she prepared herself for a family dinner out. A new ruby-red Lexus wrapped in a ribbon awaited her when she stepped outside.
"It was the first thing he bought," Glenda Brewer said. "I'm not much into materialistic things -- a big house just means there's more to clean -- but it was for his mama. That's the reason I love it so much."
She encouraged her son to buy something for himself, so he now drives a Range Rover. He leased a condo in downtown Minneapolis, where he lives just down the hall from fellow Wolves rookie and former Florida teammate Chris Richard. The two still share a cell-phone plan they had in college.
Glenda Brewer has repeatedly suggested the family replace the old basketball hoop and crumbling court with something better.
Corey Brewer refuses.
"I've been playing there ever since I can remember," he said. "I know my spots on the court. I don't want to mess it up, so nobody can beat me there. That's my home court. That's home."
Jerry Zgoda firstname.lastname@example.org
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