Five-hundred and six miles separates Meridian, Mississippi from Johnson City, Tennessee. As far as Ledarrius “LA” Brewer and Ty Brewer are concerned, however, their new temporary residence feels a lot like home.
“Being here reminds me a lot of Meridian,” Ty Brewer said. “It feels a lot like home here, and the fans are great.”
As you might expect, family is an important part of who the Brewer brothers are, and there’s no denying that getting a chance to play together was a big reason why they found their way to ETSU.
The two initially planned on playing at the same college after high school even before making their way to different schools and, eventually, ending up at ETSU.
“The chemistry between us is great out there,” Ty Brewer said. “It’s just like having a second me out there and honestly it’s like you know what’s about to happen and when it’s going to happen and that helps us have that special connection on the floor.”
“Having him here means everything to me,” LA Brewer added. “This team is really starting to come together as we get more games in and it’s really cool to see.”
2019-20 was a year in which the Buccaneers won 30 games and were crowned Southern Conference Tournament champions. That magical team was not able to reap the reward of playing in the Big Dance.
LA Brewer, then a sit-out transfer, was on the sidelines every night throughout that run. Buccaneer fans knew about him, but he was a relatively unheralded transfer out of Southeast Missouri State, waiting out his redshirt year while his teammates ascended to the summit of the SoCon. Now, the whole Southern Conference has been put on notice by the brothers as Ty transferred in this summer from Southeast Louisiana.
Though the journey might have started in Meridian for both Brewer brothers, their respective paths to Johnson City took very different routes.
LA was a dynamic scorer during his time as a Redhawk. He started 49 of 59 games during his career and, in a game against Eastern Illinois on Feb. 15, 2018, turned in a career performance. He posted 34 points and went 7-of-10 from three-point range to lead the Redhawks to victory.
During his two campaigns at SEMO, LA scored 805 points and racked up 118 three-pointers, as he shot 40% from the field, 34% from beyond the arc, and 74% from the free throw line. As a freshman during the 2017-18 season, LA was named the Ohio Valley Conference All-Newcomer Team.
LA might draw comparisons from Buccaneer fans to guys like Trazel Silvers (1990-94), or for a more recent comparison, Desonta Bradford (2014-2018). Bradford, the 2018 SoCon Player of the Year, is currently a grad assistant on the Bucs’ coaching staff, so it’s not hard to see his influence on LA’s play.
Ty is a player built out of a different mold. He’s still a strong scorer (14.9 points per game last year) but excelled as a rebounder (7.7 rebounds per game last year) and defender. He’s an efficient offensive player who can score at all levels and is a defensive Swiss army knife, able to stay with guards with his athleticism and deal with bigger post players thanks to his 6’9 frame.
So much uncertainty surrounded the ETSU basketball program heading into the 2020-21 season. The defending SoCon champions were selected third in both the media and coaches poll, and it would be safe to say that navigating the particular difficulties of this campaign as your first season in charge for head coach Jason Shay hasn’t been the easiest. The Buccaneers started off the season with a 23-point loss to Abilene Christian and have since weathered four shutdowns due to COVID-19, with more postponements on the horizon. An upcoming matchup with Chattanooga has been put off due to COVID-19 issues within the Chattanooga basketball program.
This season, ETSU, thanks in large part to the steadying influence of the Brewers, has been a resilient team, one that improves with every game and possesses the flexibility to adapt to all the craziness of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite all the stoppages, roster turnover, coaching changes, and new faces, the Bucs have managed to not just turn the page from a year ago, but also put themselves in a great position to repeat as league champions. The Buccaneers sit at 9-5 overall and 5-1 in the Southern Conference — alone at the top — and both LA and Ty Brewer are as important to the cause as anyone.
Though Meridian is a little over 500 miles away from Johnson City, both mom and dad were on hand last Saturday to take in their sons’ huge conference clash against Furman. Johnson City might as well have been Meridian, MS and ETSU won, 71-62.
“[It] was pretty big to get a win like that in front of mom and dad because it really brings back great memories of us playing together in high school,” Ty Brewer said.
LA was not present during Furman’s 78-66 win over ETSU just a week earlier due to COVID-19 protocols , but the Buccaneers still have enough talent to stay within striking distance of the preseason favorite Paladins in Greenville. That’s due in large part to Ty, who helped the ETSU cause immensely. Off the bench, Ty was able to post 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field and also had two of the four Bucs’ three-pointers in the game. Ty also contributed three rebounds, an assist and a steal.
It was LA’s turn to shine against Furman last Saturday, delivering the knockout blow. LA hit a Kobe-esque three from the top of the key, and then recorded a key steal and went in for a poster dunk on Furman’s Jalen Slawson, waiting for Slawson to catch up and foul in the process. That sequence gave ETSU a 63-50 lead with 2:27 remaining. It was a snapshot of the athleticism that LA brings to the Buccaneers’ lineup.
That highlight dunk brought the crowd of about 600 to its feet, and Freedom Hall rose to a noise level as high as it could with the limited crowd on-hand. LA posted 10 of his 17 points in the second half of play, including those six, which came in a span of only 12 seconds.
On Tuesday, LA Brewer was named to the Lou Henson mid-season award watch list — a trophy that goes to the best mid-major player in the country. So far this season, LA Brewer is averaging 16.8 PPG (8th in SoCon), 5.1 RPG, 1.8 SPG (3rd in SoCon), 48.8 FG% (10th in SoCon), and 31 made three-pointers (10th in SoCon). As the leading man off the bench, Ty Brewer is averaging 9.2 PPG and 4.4 RPG, as well as shooting 46.3% from the field.
Getting to see them play on the same floor on Saturday was a treat, and it was a game between arguably two of the best teams in the Southern Conference, and two that could end up playing on a championship Monday night in March.