By Tina Comeau
He was Steve Brewer the coach.
He was Steve Brewer the player.
He was Steve Brewer the referee.
But above all, it was Steve Brewer the person for which his impact on the sport of basketball will always be remembered.
Which is why, even though they were overcome with grief and shock, in a way it was fitting that when friends of Steve Brewer, along with some basketball players, learned of his death earlier this year, the news came as they were in a local gym at a basketball game.
Kelley Lacroix, one of the people inside that gymnasium, says they pretty much knew immediately that they would do something in tribute to Brewer, who had touched so many lives in the sport of basketball.
This tribute will hit the court next week when the Steve Brewer Memorial Basketball Tournament is played at Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School Dec. 27-29.
Brewer died in a car accident Feb. 1 at the age of 53. His death was a loss to the basketball community not just because it had lost a player, coach and a referee, but also because Brewer had always been known for his sense of sportsmanship.
“He had a huge impact,” says Lacroix, adding that many of the girls she coaches on the high school basketball team at one time played for Brewer on teams he coached.
“He’s been part of my basketball life since I was 13,” adds Lacroix. “He was also the referee that we loved the most. He was always such a fair guy and just so solid and consistent.”
Given that Brewer touched the lives of players of all ages, both male and female, next week’s tournament will be a co-ed tournament that will include the high school’s junior boys basketball team and the senior girls team.
There is also a family connection with one of the teams. Brewer’s son Keenan, who is in Grade 9, plays on the high school’s junior team. Keenan isn’t the only Brewer to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Brewer’s daughter Janelle, in Grade 6 at Meadowfields, plays mini-basketball.
The junior boys teams in the tournament will play their games on Dec. 27 and 28. The senior girls teams will play on Dec. 28 and 29.
As a basketball referee, Brewer had reached Level 3, which allowed him to referee the game at higher levels throughout the province. But it was mostly at junior high and senior high games throughout the region that you’d see him, which is why his death was felt beyond Yarmouth County’s borders and its gymnasiums. And given that in the last years of his life he had also been battling illness, and inspiring others in his battle, to have died in a car accident made his death seem even more unfair.
Still, unfair is not a word that people associate with Brewer when they talk about him in basketball circles. He was about as fair as you could get. Teams and players respected him as an official. If they lost, teams didn’t leave a game refereed by Brewer blaming the loss on the officiating that had taken place.
“He was a really fair ref,” remembers high school player Samantha MacDougall. “He was never one-sided.”
Yet even with a referee’s whistle around his neck, you couldn’t take the coach out of Brewer. As a game went on he’d be teaching or reminding players about the skills and rules – whether it was reminding them to take a few steps back before taking a rebound shot or telling them it was time for them to move out of the key.
Randy Fells coaches the high school’s Grade 9 boys team that will play in the tournament. He says the team is very honoured to be taking part in the inaugural tournament, which organizers hope will become an annual event.
Fells experienced every aspect of basketball with Brewer, having coached with him, refereed with him and played with him over the last 20 years. Teams they coached and played on saw much success over the years, winning provincial, regional and district titles. Yet despite what the scoreboard said, Fells’ memories of Brewer extend beyond what happened before those final buzzers.
“He was just a true gentleman to the sport,” Fells says, adding Brewer was never one to let time or distance stand in the way of the game. “We travelled night and day. We travelled in storms. We travelled no matter what, just to play. He just loved the game dearly.”
“Steve never cared about what you weren’t good at. He took what you were good at and embraced that and he made you feel like you were a superstar, even if you weren’t the best kid on the team.” - Brooke Hamilton, coached by Steve Brewer
And Brewer’s love of the game continues to be passed down through the generations – whether it’s with his own children or other young people he introduced to the sport of basketball.
“He was my first basketball coach so he basically taught me everything I know about basketball,” says high school player Chelsea Surette. Her teammate Brooke Hamilton says it was Brewer who first encouraged her to get involved in basketball – a decision she’ll always be thankful for. As a coach, he never had favourites on his team, she says. And if he did, the other players didn’t know because he treated everyone equally.
“Steve never cared about what you weren’t good at,” Hamilton says. “He took what you were good at and embraced that and he made you feel like you were a superstar, even if you weren’t the best kid on the team.”
The following is the tournament schedule as was supplied to the Vanguard:
Thursday, Dec. 27:
• Welcoming 11:45 a.m.
• Game 1 junior boys 12 p.m.
• Game 2 junior boys 2 p.m.
• Game 3 junior boys 4 p.m.
• Game 4 junior boys 6 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 28:
• Game 5 junior boys 10 a.m.
• Game 6 junior boys 12 p.m.
• Game 1 senior girls 2 p.m.: Yarmouth vs. Shelburne
• Game 2 senior girls 4 p.m.: Lockeport vs. Middleton
• Game 3 senior girls: 6 p.m. Yarmouth vs. Middleton
Saturday, Dec. 29:
• Game 4 senior girls 9 a.m.: Shelburne vs. Lockeport
• Game 5 senior girls 12 p.m.: Middleton vs. Shelburne
• Game 6 senior girls 2 p.m.: Yarmouth vs. Lockeport