Sunday May 27, 2012Still a Gator at Heart, Corey Brewer Hoping to Find a Home in Denver
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When he got traded to the Denver Nuggets in December, Corey Brewer liked the fact that a certain fellow former Gator happened to be playing in the same town, albeit in a different sport.
Eventually, though, the Broncos traded Tim Tebow.
“I was upset when Tebow left,” Brewer said last week. “But I was more upset when [the Broncos] brought Peyton Manning in. He needed to go play for the Tennessee Titans. Man, that’s my team.”
Brewer grew up about 25 miles outside Nashville, Tenn., and still pulls for the hometown clubs (and the Gators, of course). That Manning, the former University of Tennessee All-American, didn’t return to his Volunteer State was disappointing for Brewer, but the ex-UF star is fine.
Turns out he may even have found a home of his own in the Rocky Mountains.
Brewer, 26, just finished his fourth NBA season, only this one ended with the two-time national champion in the middle of the action. He may have won a ring as a member of the Dallas Mavericks last year, but the 6-foot-9 forward appeared in just six games during the Mavs’ incredible 2011 playoff run, scoring only nine points in a total of 23 minutes.
With Denver, Brewer played a key role, averaging 8.9 points and 2.5 rebounds after the trade. In the first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Brewer received huge praise for his energy, activity in transition and defense off the bench, averaging 8.3 points on 42.3-percent shooting in the seven-game series eventually won by the Lakers.
"Corey's defensive instincts helped us win a lot of games this year,” Nuggets coach George Karl told reporters in Colorado after the season ended. “I love him. I think he's a great weapon off the bench."
Maybe this is where Brewer belongs.
“It’s a good place,” he said. “I like everybody here and hopefully we can make something happen that will make it my long-term home.”
Brewer, who after helping lead the Gators to back-to-back NCAA titles was the seventh overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, has two seasons remaining on the three-year, $7 million contract extension he signed with Dallas in March 2011.
Nine months later, he was shipped to Denver (along with Rudy Fernandez) in exchange for a second-round pick 2016 after the Mavs decided to commit to veterans Vince Carter and Lamar Odom.
The move backfired on Dallas, but not for Brewer and the Nuggets.
“I wasn’t bitter,” he said. “I wanted to have a chance to actually be able to contribute to the Mavericks, but they made a decision; went a different direction. I was able to go to Denver and start fresh.”
With the loss to the Lakers in Game 7 of the playoffs, Brewer was able to start making his offseason plans, part of which include a return to Gainesville for his third annual Back-2-Back Youth Basketball Camp this August.
All proceeds of his camp go to Shands Hospital and the fight against diabetes, the disease Brewer’s father battled for many years.
Ellis “PeeWee” Brewer, 68, died Feb. 7 in the family’s hometown of Portland, Tenn.
“I miss him very much,” Brewer said. “I always think about him. Every day. I know he’s in a better place, but when I’m out there on the court I want to play so hard for him, because he was such a hard worker.”
Brewer has grown fond of his annual treks back to Gainesville to work with kids, but also likes to reconnect with his Gator ties, starting with Coach Billy Donovan.
He still keeps in close contact with his fellow “04s” in Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Taurean Green, the foursome that led Florida to those ’06 and ’07 national titles, making the Gators the first program to go back-to-back since Duke in ’91-92 -- and only the second since UCLA’s historic run of the seven straight from ’67 to ’73.
In fact, Brewer couldn’t help but think about those consecutive championship blasts after Southeastern Conference rival Kentucky won the 2012 title in April and then held a news conference to announce six of its players leaving early for the NBA Draft.
Worth noting: After Florida won in ’06, the Gators held a pep rally where Brewer, Noah, Horford and Green announced they were coming back to try and repeat.
Even more worth noting: They did repeat.
“I don’t know that you will ever see that again,” Brewer said. “Nowadays, kids want to play in the NBA, and it’s tough to get that opportunity and not take it.”
Yes, Brewer was reminded, but UF’s fab quartet had that same opportunity and did not take it.
“We had lived together for three years and we were really best friends,” he said. “It’s hard for me to explain the bond that we had. It was kind of weird. Even looking back or thinking back on it now, it’s unbelievable to think how close we were. We just felt like we had to come back and try to win another one. Had to. It just felt right.”
It’s fun looking back, but it’s also nice for Brewer to look forward to looking forward. Just a couple weeks ago, he invited former UF assistant coach Larry Shyatt, now head coach at Wyoming, to hop down Interstate-25 and take in Game 6 of the series.
All Brewer did was score a career playoff-high 18 points (on 8-for-12 shooting, including 2-for-3 from the arc) to go with three rebounds, three assists and two steals in a big 113-96 win to force the series to a seventh game. Shyatt had seen that Brewer before.
That’s the Brewer both the player and his team would like to build on.