Corey Brewer has never been one to thrive on the conventional.

While many rural-raised kids dream of one day spurning their tiny hometown, the slender Timberwolves forward never stops embracing his. While the majority of college superstars jump at their first chance at a professional paycheck, he stayed in school an extra year in search of a second NCAA crown -- and helped seize it. While the rigors of NBA life harden and distance a lot of the league's highest-profile employees, he carries the same smile-marked, effervescent demeanor you might recall from his first 3 ½ years as a pro, all spent here during some of the franchise's darkest days.

And from Portland, Tenn., to Gainesville, Fla., to the Twin Cities and now back again, Brewer always has maintained that charisma, whether he's starting 82 games or two games, pestering opposing scorers or flying in for a transition jam, soaking up the Minneapolis nightlife or spending a summer afternoon at the trailer home in which he grew up.

With Brewer's efficacious persona, the Timberwolves got a seventh-year veteran coming into his own when they signed him for three years and $15 million this offseason. Coach Rick Adelman expected to bring him off the bench, but when Chase Budinger went down with a preseason knee injury, Brewer stepped in and has been in the starting lineup for all 20 of Minnesota's contests to date.

Regarded as one of the NBA's best perimeter defenders after two pivotal years in Denver, he's living up to that label. In addition, he's producing points at the most efficient rate of his career.

"He's been a pleasant surprise," Adelman said earlier this season. "He's better, I think, than we had anticipated."

All stemming from a willingness to follow instruction rather than personal desire.

"As long as you love the game," Brewer told, "you do whatever you've got to do to play."

It may seem quaintly noble, a small-town Southern kid still applying a small-town Southern work ethic to big-league basketball.