Jazzmen Back Stories, Part 3

Part 1: Sap, Matthews, The Koof, Deron
Part 2: AK, Boozer, Memo, Ronnie P


KORVER The Korvers are regarded as Iowa's first family of basketball. Kyle's parents, Kevin and Laine, met while playing basketball for Central College in Pella. Laine, a high school star, once scored 74 points in a 6-on-6 high school game. Kyle's grandfather, father, and two uncles are all ministers, and Kevin attended seminary in California. 12-year old Kyle wasn't exactly a happy camper when his parents decided to move the family, which also includes Klayton (played at Drake), Kaleb (plays at Creighton), and Kirk (plays in high school) back to Iowa, and he asked if he could move in with friends and stay in Cali. Obviously, his parents said no and a very emo Kyle had to accept the decision. He was angry and depressed when it snowed on his first day of school in Iowa, as he had worn shorts all his life.

In Pella, Kevin took over the ministry at Third Reformed Church, which draws 25% of the town's population on the average Sunday. The congregation has grown so large that it holds nine services a week, including five on Sundays. His first coach in Pella was his uncle, who taught him basketball fundamentals (apparently, Kyle only knew how to throw up scoop shots and behind-the-back passes back then).

He made varsity his sophomore year, and the assistant coach realized Kyle had something special when he saw him shooting left-handed and looking better than the other players did shooting right-handed. After he took part in a national AAU tournament, he was suddenly on the radar and college coaches began calling like girls in Utah would if they had KK's phone number.

Kyle eventually committed to Creighton, where he earned two conference Player of the Year awards and two conference MVP awards. The Nets drafted him 51st overall in 2003 and then traded his rights to the 76ers.

The Korvers have a saying: "Christianity should be caught, not taught," which means that it's not about telling people what to do, you have to show it. According to reports, Kyle gives one-third of his income to church and charity, and he subsisted on Subway sandwiches his first two years in the NBA to save money. During his years in Philly, he started setting up a ministry, worked with inner-city kids for three years (invited them to swim at his house, took them to Phillies games and hosted barbecues), had an annual coat drive (which he has since brought to SLC), participated in Basketball Without Borders, etc. etc. He and his brother also recently set up a T-shirt company to raise money for projects to help underprivileged kids.

In December 2007, the Jazz, who were struggling badly that month with a 4-11 record, traded Sloan Doghouse Resident Gordan Giricek to Philly for KK. The Jazz's season immediately turned around, going 38-12 the rest of the season, and ESA was suddenly filled with women of all ages in pink glitter #26 jerseys and "Will You Marry Me?" signs. According to KOC, he'd been trying to trade for Korver even before Giricek entered the doghouse.


RONNIE B Like OMSW, Ronnie Brewer grew up with a dad, Ron Brewer, who played in the NBA. Being the youngest of four kids, Ronnie never got to see his dad play and the first NBA game he ever attended was the first one he ever played in. He had one older sister who was a two-time All State basketball player at the University of Tulsa, and another who was an All-America sprinter at Arkansas. Their dad played a major role in preparing each of the kids for athletics, and although Ron never pushed Ronnie to play basketball, Ronnie was always asking when it was going to be his turn.

He started playing basketball in elementary school, but his career took a detour when some kids put soap on a waterslide during a day out at a water park and pushed him down it. He hit his arm on the slide support, and fractured his arm. He was scared that he would never play again, but he did, and now has that flying-out elbow on shots as a souvenir of that day. Ronnie was 5'7" as a high school freshman, and started thinking he could maybe play point guard when he grew to 5'9". By his senior year, he was averaging 28 ppg, 7 rpg, and 4 apg, and he was named Mr. Basketball Arkansas.

When recruitment time came, Ron really wanted Ronnie to go to his alma mater, the University of Arkansas, and made his opinions known. However, Ronnie's mom, Carolyn, put a stop to that so that Ronnie could make his own decision. Ronnie was recruited by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, and UConn (who sent in Okafor and Ben Gordon to take Ronnie around during the recruiting trip). UConn was flying up Ronnie's list until he found out that his mom wasn't going to move with him to Connecticut (true story). The moment he asked his mom that, his dad knew that Ronnie--who he calls a mama's boy--would be staying close to home. Eventually, Ronnie decided on Arkansas, which was conveniently located right down the street from his high school.

In his freshman year, he wore Ron's No. 10 jersey and started all 28 games. Ronnie was named to the All-SEC team. Along the way, Ronnie realized he had a shot at making the NBA and therefore spent his free time working on his game skills and conditioning. After leading the SEC in scoring his junior year, he decided to declare for the NBA draft. Utah took him with the 14th pick overall.


CJ CJ, aka Calvin Andre Jr., is the oldest of four children, and idolized Michael Jordan growing up. He entered Skyline High School in Dallas in 2001, and at the time was "the skinniest dude you have ever seen in your life." Coach JD Mayo taught him the fundamentals of the game instead of letting him get by on his talent, and made him play the game correctly. As a high school senior, he averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists and was named to the Parade's All-American First Team and McDonald's All-Star Team. His #34 jersey was only the second ever retired by Skyline; the first was Larry Johnson's.

CJ was recruited by a number of schools, and committed to the University of Texas at Austin. However, NBA teams began showing interest after his performances at the McDonald's and Jordan Capital Classic games. He decided he was going to shoot for the NBA on the draft deadline, and his family, friends, and "every news station in Dallas" gathered in his living room on the day of the draft to hear his name get called. The Jazz took him with the 34th pick (after taking Deron in the first round), and he became the youngest player in Jazz history.

During his first season with the Jazz, CJ was assigned to the D-League's Albequerque Thunderbirds and was booed when they played the Austin Toros. CJ is in his 5th season with the Jazz, but because he came into the NBA straight out of high school, he's actually still the second youngest guy on the team (only the Koof is younger).

(I couldn't find much on CJ, and as some of you may know, googling "CJ Miles" doesn't always yield the results you're seeking. If you don't know what I'm talking about but are curious, take my advice and wait until you are at home AND alone before clicking "search.")


Yatta Sundiata Gaines was named for Sundiata Keita, the African warrior that founded the Mali empire. When he was four years old, he was accidentally shot in the neck by a police officer. He spent two weeks recovering in the hospital, and his dad, Ronnie, says it was the worst time of his life. Today, he has a two-inch scar on the front of his neck and a half-inch circle on the back of his head as reminders of what happened that day.

Yatta was ten when Ronnie realized that he had real basketball talent. A few years later, he began commuting an hour every day from Queens to the Bronx's Archbishop Molloy High School. Jack Curran had been the coach of Archbishop Molloy for over half a century, and was the winningest high school coach ever in the U.S. Both Curran and the playgrounds of New York helped Gaines hone his skills on the court. In his senior year, he averaged 28 ppg and was named MVP of the Catholic High School Athletic Association after leading his team to the CHSAA title. He was recruited by many schools in the East, and narrowed his choices down to Pitt, Seton Hall, South Carolina, and Georgia.

At the time, Georgia was suffering from an academic scandal and was on NCAA probation. Ronnie, who had been involved in running AAU tournaments in New York for three decades, was well-versed in the recruiting process and didn't want anything to do with Georgia, but Head Coach Dennis Felton and Assistant Coach Mike Jones were persistent and made several trips to New York to meet with the family. Eventually, Ronnie was convinced that it would be a win-win situation for both sides. Sundiata, meanwhile, wanted to go to Georgia because he wanted immediate playing time. Other schools told him he might get 20 minutes a game, while Georgia promised him the starting job and 35 minutes a game.

Initially, it was depressing. He hadn't lost that many games in his whole life, and he almost wanted to quit basketball. However, from the moment he stepped onto the court, Sundiata was the Bulldogs' most indispensible player, and stayed that way through his four years at Georgia. The experience helped him develop toughness, and grow as a person and a basketball player. In his freshman year, he led the team in FTMs and FTAs. In his sophomore and junior years, he led the team in rebounds, minutes, assists, and steals. In his senior year, he was named All-SEC Tournament MVP and to the SEC All-Defensive Team as well.

When he failed to get drafted, Sundiata decided to hone his skills abroad. He played for Italy's NGC Cantu for a year, where he got 35 minutes a game and learned about being a professional. However, the experience wasn't entirely pleasant, with his paychecks often coming six weeks late or the team trying to get out of paying players when the team was losing. After nine months, Sundiata decided to head home. He spent the summer playing in NBA camps, and entered the D-League draft. Taken by the Idaho Stampede with the 15th overall pick, Gaines was called up by the Utah Jazz after playing just 14 games for the Stampede, and hit the second most memorable shot in Jazz franchise history ten days later.


Anyone want to contribute information on Fes? I came up with squat other than he is funny, once dressed up as Willy Wonka on Halloween, was also raised by a single mom, and possibly got kicked off/left the Ukrainian national team this past summer because the coach wasn't cool with his taking smoking breaks during games.


SLTrib article published in 2008 "Humble hero Korver lives life of faith, charity"
TNT feature in which Cheryl Miller interviews Laine Korver from 2008 (?)

Ronnie B



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