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FORTUNE REVEALED

Corey Brewer put off NBA riches despite family needs. The payoff was priceless.

By most standards, the house is modest. A single-story building, nicely furnished, filled with love, yet no mansion by any stretch of the imagination. But for former Florida forward Corey Brewer, it's the best house anywhere in the world. Because it's the one the NBA rookie bought for his parents shortly after the Minnesota Timberwolves made him the seventh overall draft pick in June. It's the house specially designed to meet the needs of his ailing father, Ellis, who means the world to Brewer. When the four members of Florida's 2004 basketball recruiting class - Brewer, Taurean Green, Joakim Noah and Al Horford - decided to ignore the call of the NBA and return to school in 2006 for their junior seasons, it was Brewer who sacrificed the most for the Gators. To chase history and become back-to-back national champions, Brewer delayed his opportunity at a multimillion dollar contract and a chance to help his family. His three teammates were all sons of former professional athletes with well-off families.

So after the Gators won consecutive national titles and Brewer was drafted, the first thing he did was keep the promise he made to himself long ago.

"I paid for my mom and dad a house and I bought my mom a brand new ruby-red Lexus," Brewer said with the same child-like enthusiasm that made him a fan favorite in Gainesville. "The house is nice. My dad has to have a wheelchair to get around. So it has the ramps and everything around it. He has ramps to get around and he has his own little bonus room. We used to live in a double-wide trailer, so now they live in a house. It's one story, but it's very nice. They are happy."

Florida coach Billy Donovan hopes Brewer's sacrifice will inspire other college players.

"It's a great lesson for a lot of young kids because Corey's financial situation was about as severe as anybody," Donovan said. "His dad was ill, they financially were struggling at that time. I don't think Corey was without, but certainly it wasn't the best situation. The one respect I have for his family is there was never any pressure placed on him to leave. It was more the pressure was placed on him being happy."

Brewer, who will turn 22 on March 5, is still about happiness, not materialism. The only thing he has bought for himself is a new Range Rover. His father is a former farmer, slaughterhouse owner and garbage and scrap heap collector, so Brewer knows the value of a dollar.

"I've got to save my money," Brewer said. "You never know how long you're going to play basketball. I'm not going to get stupid. I don't have no jewelry or nothing like that."

Brewer's mother, Glenda, still works in Portland, Tenn., as a special education teacher. A cousin cares for his ailing father during the day. His dad, affectionately known as "Pee Wee," has diabetes and has had multiple heart attacks. He was scheduled to have a second leg amputated last week while Brewer was home during the NBA All-Star break. "Hopefully he'll recover and he'll be a lot better," Brewer said.

Brewer's rookie season has been a struggle, from the grueling travel to constantly facing some of the league's best players. And then there's the losing. The Timberwolves are 11-41 after winning Tuesday. Brewer believes that's more losses than he compiled in middle, high school and college combined. "It's a tough adjustment for me,'' he said. "I'm trying to work through it. I'm trying to get through this rookie season. I'm having a lot of ups and downs, but it's been worth it."

And as for the '04s? They talk multiple times a week, when possible, and have been a great comfort and support for one another. Brewer and former Gator Chris Richard, also with Minnesota, live in the same condo complex.

Brewer still keeps up with the Gators, taking lots of verbal abuse from teammates after UF losses.

He has moved on, as have the other '04s, but at times you can hear a little sadness, perhaps even longing, in Brewer's voice.

"The NBA is fun, but I still miss that college atmosphere," he said. "It ain't nothing like playing on the road in the SEC. There's nothing like college. ... There's never going to be anything like that anymore. That's why you've got to enjoy those years. I'm glad I went back for my third year. I wouldn't trade anything for it. People say I gave up a lot, but I don't think I gave up anything. It was worth it.''

And he still kept his promise to his parents, just one year later.

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

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