Former Florida forward Corey Brewer’s NBA career has come full circle.
Brewer, in town this weekend for his fourth annual Fight Diabetes youth basketball camp in Gainesville, signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves last month. Brewer talked with the Atlanta Hawks and could have been reunited with former Gator teammate Al Horford. But he feels good about the direction of the Timbewolves with point guard Ricky Rubio and power forward Kevin Love.
“To have a chance to play with Ricky Rubio, one of the best point guards in the league, is a great opportunity,” Brewer said. “Kevin Love still an All-Star. When Kevin Martin signed I thought we could be a playoff team, so why not try to go somewhere where I started.”
The Timberwolves drafted Brewer seventh overall in the 2007 NBA draft, the second of three Florida players taken in the lottery that night (Horford third to the Atlanta Hawks and Joakim Noah ninth to Chicago Bulls). But Minnesota traded Brewer away to the New York Knicks midway through the 2011 season. After stints with the Dallas Mavericks and the Denver Nuggets, Brewer is back in the Twin Cities.
“I feel like I’ll have a pretty good role,” Brewer said. “I don’t have to be a superstar. I just have to go out there and play my game.”
Of course, Florida fans remember a bigger moment from Brewer in Minnesota. During UF’s first of back-to-back national title runs in 2006, Brewer hit the clutch driving baseline shot in the closing minutes at the Metrodome that led the Gators to a 57-53 win over Georgetown in the Sweet 16.
Close games have been an issue for the Gators of late. Over the last two seasons, Florida is 2-9 in games decided by 5 points less, which included UF’s 2012 Elite Eight loss to Louisville (72-68).
“It’s about staying calm,” Brewer said. “I feel like the last two years, we lost some close games where the guys kind of let their emotions get the most of them, start throwing it away. You’ve just got to be calm.”
Brewer said that’s what made point guard Taurean Green so valuable on UF’s back-to-back national title teams. Green just recently signed a contract to play in the French Pro A League this season.
“Taurean drove it up, we slowed it down and nobody ever panicked,” Brewer said. “If you win close games you can’t panic.
“People don’t understand how good Taurean was because he played with a bunch of good players. But you’ve got to think about it. He had to give me the ball, he had to get Joakim the ball, he had to get Al the ball and Lee (Humphrey) the ball. So he had to make four guys happy, that’s not an easy job as a point guard and he was getting his own shots. That’s a tough job for him but he did a great job, for me. I’d say Taurean was the glue.”
Brewer said he thinks the Gators have a good chance to break though to a Final Four this season after appearing in three straight Elite Eights. He wants to get a chance to talk to his protege, senior forward Casey Prather, before the start of the season. Prather has been compared to Brewer throughout his career because both are wiry, Tennessee natives who play above the rim and are excellent defenders.
“He needs to work on his shooting but I feel like it’s come a long way,” Brewer said. “And I think defensively, he can be great. Hopefully he puts it all together, senior year. He’s gotten better each year and this year, he has to be better.”
Brewer said he thinks the 6-foot-6 Prather has gained confidence with more playing time: “Some guys when you come in you get thrown in and you get comfortable because you have to play. He has had to play from the beginning, and now, he’s starting to play more and more and he’s getting better.”
— Former Gator guard Kenny Boynton, UF’s second-leading all-time scorer with 2,033 points, is graduating this weekend with a degree in sociology.
— It’s looking more promising that Rutgers transfer guard Eli Carter will be granted a waiver to play right away during the 2013-14 season. Former Rutgers guard Mike Poole, another player who left last April in wake of the Mike Rice player abuse scandal at Rutgers, was granted a waiver to play this season at Iona. If Carter plays right away at UF, he’ll provide needed depth in the backcourt with the loss of Boynton and Mike Rosario and with returning point guard Scottie Wilbekin still suspended from the team indefinitely for violation of team rules.