"Spiderman" Makes Big Plays At Critical Moments

David Lee thought he was in position for an offensive rebound Wednesday night against Vanderbilt. The moment he saw Anthony Roberson go up for a three-pointer, he got himself in perfect position to go up and either grab the ball or tip it in. When the ball clanged off the rim, he leaped high into the air but before he could touch it, Corey Brewer came flying in from the right wing.

The 6-8 freshman from Portland, Tennessee, flipped the caroming basketball back onto the rim where it hung for a couple of seconds before dropping through.

"I didn't get blocked out and all of a sudden when I looked up I see Corey's already in the air," said Lee. "The ball looked like it was going over his head but he got his fingertips on it and he got it back in. I was going back up the court shaking my head and thinking, he did it again."

Brewer's stat sheets hide the fact that he has such a sense of timing. When the Florida Gators need a big play Brewer has a habit of stepping his game up. His extraordinary quickness and leaping ability coupled with the tentacle arms and long legs have earned him the nickname "Spiderman" from his teammates. Sunday afternoon when the Gators (17-7, 9-4 SEC) play South Carolina (14-10, 6-7 SEC) in Columbia, Brewer will have a chance to show why he's so highly regarded by his teammates in a game regionally televised by CBS.

His numbers are good for a freshman although they're not of the dominating variety. He's averaging 7.3 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. He leads the team with 38 steals, averages a couple of assists per game and he's blocked as many shots (12) as Lee, Florida's 6-9 senior power forward. It really isn't the numbers that are remarkable, though, it's the timing.

"Corey is so explosive you're just waiting for him to make a play," says Matt Walsh. "He's got the ability to make big plays at the right moment."

Whether it's a steal, a deflection, forcing a bad shot, coming up with a rebound on the offensive end or hitting a key shot, Brewer has filled a critical need for the Gators this season. He's become Florida's lockdown defender on the defensive end and the Gators garbage man on offense. Last year the Gators lacked a defensive presence on the perimeter and though Florida finished with a 20-win season and made the NCAA Tournament for a record sixth straight year, Florida was considered a mediocre defensive team.

Brewer's presence is one of the reasons the Gators have moved up the defensive charts in the Southeastern Conference. Last year, Florida ranked ninth thorugh 12th in nearly every category. This year, the Gators are in the top half in nearly every defensive category.

"He knows that he can be the huge difference maker by getting steals, getting out in transition, and taking on the other team's best perimeter player," said Lee. "He's really been great forcing their best shooters to take bad shots and that's what's been the biggest difference on the team this year."

Walsh says that Brewer's presence has created steal opportunities for every member of the team.

"He's got those long arms and he's very active," said Walsh. "He gets his hands on the ball a lot and if he doesn't, he forces a lot of bad or lazy passes. We all benefit from the things he does. You don't always see it in the steals chart on Corey, but you see it in the steals that the rest of us get or you see it in the number of turnovers he forces."

Brewer says that he's always had the ability to make big plays at critical times in basketball games.

"It's just something I've always been able to do," he said. "When I feel that my team needs something, I've always been able to come up with something big. A lot of times it's on defense, but I've gotten some offensive plays that are pretty big too."

He said that sometimes when he's playing well, everything seems like it's going in slow motion.

"I get locked in on a player and sometimes it seems like everything goes in slow motion," he said. "I see what he's doing and it looks like what he's doing is so slow. It's all so clear and I just anticipate and then do what I have to do."

Walsh said that Brewer plays head games with the other teams.

"From watching him I can tell he baits team early on," said Walsh. "He'll make them think he's playing them a certain way and eventually, I know he's going to shoot the gap and make a steal or a deflection. He'll make them do what he wants them to do. It's more than just luck with Corey. He really knows what he's doing."

Florida's offense revolves around its three upperclassmen who start, Walsh, Lee and Anthony Roberson. Roberson leads the SEC in scoring at 18.5 per game, while Walsh averages 14.8 and Lee averages 13.3 points and a team leading 8.3 rebounds per game. With those three, it isn't necessary for Brewer to carry on a scoring load although Lee says that Brewer is once again all about the timing.

"It's not so much how many he scores, but when he scores," said Lee. "He has a habit of scoring points when we need them. The same is true of what he does on defense. He has a habit of making plays when we need them."

Lee believes that with hard work to further develop his jump shot in the offseason that Brewer can become one of the premier players in the Southeastern Conference.

"In the offseason when he works on his jump shot he's going to be awfully tough to stop," said Lee. "If he gets to where he can score consistently, he's going to be scary good."

By understanding his role and doing it well, Walsh says that the tall freshman has had a key role in making the team better this year.

"I think we're a better team this year than we were last year," said Walsh. "I think Corey makes the team better defensively. I know he makes me better."

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