Gators Get Good News, Brewer Cleared To Play

It’s been one tough season for Corey Brewer so far. Compounding the concerns he has with his ailing father back in Portland, Tennessee, Brewer has also been battling through a case of mononucleosis that has sidelined him for the last couple of weeks. He got some good news over the weekend, however, and so at least half the problems have been solved.

Brewer got word over the weekend that he has been cleared by the University of Florida medical staff to resume basketball. Unable to practice the last couple of weeks, he says he’s spent far too much time watching college basketball on television along with a few episodes of “Beauty and the Geek.” Now that he can resume playing basketball television won’t occupy nearly as much of his time. He will spend the rest of this week practicing and getting back in good physical condition so he can play Sunday when the Gators face Florida A&M at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.

“Get a week of practice in and I’ll be ready to play,” said the 6-9 junior small forward, who was averaging 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game before he was sidelined.

Brewer knew he was sick when the Gators blew out Western Kentucky in Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend. He had a great game but afterward, he was overwhelmed by the first effects of mononucleosis.

“My dad was sick and getting mono is really hard,” said Brewer. “After the Western Kentucky game, that’s when I knew I was really sick. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t do anything.”

He gave a valiant effort against Kansas in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational but after the game he was sent to the sidelines to recover. Doctors at first feared that he might be out until January but he’s healed faster than expected.

“I guess I have a strong immune system,” said Brewer.

Coach Billy Donovan kept close tabs on Brewer, who kept saying he was feeling better the last few days. Donovan got encouraging news last week when testing showed that Brewer’s spleen wasn’t enlarged, a sign that the virus is running a tough course through the body.

More bloodwork was ordered and sent to a testing lab in California. The results came back positive for Donovan and the Florida basketball team.

“Some experts in California looked at it and the mono has left his body,” said Donovan. “I asked them what the chances were of a relapse and they said no, it’s not going to be a worry.”

Brewer has a couple of games (FAMU on December 17, Stetson in Gainesville December 20) to get back in shape before the Gators host Ohio State in a nationally televised showdown at the O’Connell Center on December 23. That game will pit Florida’s 2006 national champions against Ohio State’s talented freshman Greg Oden. If the rules were still in place so high school seniors could go straight to the NBA, the 7-1 Oden would have probably been the first player selected in the NBA Draft back in June.

With Oden in the lineup, there are some experts that think Ohio State is a lock for a spot in the 2007 Final Four. Brewer can’t wait to see how the 8-2 Gators measure up against the Buckeyes. He saw Oden’s first game against Valparaiso after the big freshman returned from wrist surgery.

“He’s good but we’ll see; he’s got to come into the O-Dome,” said Brewer, who said he “can’t wait for big games and that’s another big game before Christmas. It’s going to be a measuring stick.”

The Gators were picked to repeat as the national champions since Brewer and four other starters returned from last year’s title team, but the Gators have lost two games in their first 10, bringing the doubters out in full force. Brewer fully understands why there is doubt.

“We have to get back to playing our style of basketball,” he said. “Lately we haven’t been playing defense. We haven’t been rebounding. We haven’t been doing anything right.”

The lack of defensive effort and intensity has been most frustrating for Brewer, who was the 2006 SEC co-defensive player of the year.

“Our lack of focus on the defensive end … that’s what’s been killing us all year,” he said, adding that the thought the Gators were slacking off in practice.

The Gators had their worst defensive effort of the year on a road loss in Tallahassee against Florida State. The next day the Gators went through a tough film session as Donovan broke down the game frame by frame.

“It was real brutal but of course every time we lose our film sessions are real brutal when it comes to coach Donovan because he breaks everything down and lets you see what you’re doing wrong,” said Brewer. “I think the guys are re-focused. You saw what they did against Providence.”

And now they have their defensive stopper back, not to mention their best player at creating his own shot off the dribble. Brewer’s ready to play but first he knows he’s got to spend the next few days working on conditioning. During the last two weeks he’s watched a lot of television but hasn’t done anything in the conditioning department.

“It’s conditioning,” he said. “I’ve got to get up and down the court.”

Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.