Brewer repairing confidence


Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 12:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 12:05 p.m.

MANKATO, Minn. — When his trying rookie season finally came to an end, Corey Brewer immediately went to work on his shooting technique and his ball-handling skills.

Those were the Minnesota Timberwolves guard’s two most glaring deficiencies on the court. But Brewer’s most important goal this offseason was repairing his head.

“It was tough,” Brewer said as he prepared to start his second training camp with the Wolves. “Once you lose your confidence, it’s hard to get it back.”

No matter what Brewer tried last year, the shots just wouldn’t fall.

The No. 7 overall draft pick made 37.4 percent of his field goals in his rookie year and became such an offensive liability that coach Randy Wittman had to limit his minutes, keeping one of the team’s best defenders out of the game for long stretches of time.

“His number one thing is he’s going to have to have confidence and not lose confidence,” Wittman said. “That was his big thing last year. He lost a little bit of confidence, which affected his play.

“You have to learn at this level that you’re going to go through ups and downs, hard times and good times. You’ve got to not throw away that confidence when bad things happen.”

Facing questions from the media about his struggles only made matters worse. It was something he rarely had to endure during a Florida career that included being a Final Four MVP.

“If you have a bad game, your college coach can hide you,” guard Randy Foye told a gaggle of reporters crowded around him at the team’s media day. “But in the NBA, we’ve got to talk to you guys, no matter what.

“When you’re not playing as well, and there’s some question marks by your name, a lot of players, it hurts them. I just told him, ’Don’t worry about nothing. Just play basketball.” ’

That was easier said than done for Brewer, a happy-go-lucky kid from rural Tennessee who let the headlines in the newspapers and the highlights of his missed shots on television get into his head.

Once that happened, the long NBA season got even longer.

“We play 82 games. It’s a long season,” Brewer said. “We always hear about it, but until you play it, you don’t realize it.”

The summer was spent shooting, shooting and shooting some more. Brewer teamed up with fellow former Gator — and new Timberwolves guard — Mike Miller, one of the NBA’s best shooters, to work on his form and technique.

“Me and Mike did a lot of work this summer. He’s helped me a lot, been a good mentor,” Brewer said. “I try to shoot the same shot every time. He has perfect form.”

Brewer’s shooting stroke will always probably be a little flat, his elbow always a little too high. What it comes down to, basketball boss Kevin McHale said, is believing he can make a shot any time he takes one.

“A big part of shooting is confidence,” McHale said. “With that same shot he had, he made a lot of shots at Florida. ... You can have the best shot in the world. If you don’t have confidence it’s not going to make any difference.”

Whether the shots start falling or not, Brewer can always find safe haven on the other end of the floor. The 6-foot-9 swingman is tall enough to guard small forwards and quick enough to take on shooting guards, and he didn’t disappoint as a defender in his rookie season.

“I never lose confidence defensively,” Brewer said. “Defense is something totally different than offense. If a guy makes a tough shot, that’s OK. But if you miss a shot, that’s different.”

Until he proves otherwise, Brewer will be given plenty of chances from opposing defenses to take shots. Last year they ignored him almost entirely to concentrate on doubling Al Jefferson in the post or rotating to get to Randy Foye and Rashad McCants on the perimeter.

The team simply needs more offense from a lottery pick as the Wolves try to get in position for a playoff run in the next few years.

“He’s going to have to make open shots,” Wittman said. “There’s no getting around it.”

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