The manna from heaven fell into Mountainside's lap in early September, in the form of a 6-foot-4 nuclear missile, a two-way state legend who just happened to be in the Mavericks' backyard.
When Cameron Brink decided to transfer from Southridge to Mountainside and made the move official just before the school year started, the Mavericks went from possible playoff team to state title contender. Brink is a boon unlike any other, a relocation so momentous, so startling that it sent the girls' basketball state scene reeling for weeks. Opposing coaches such as Jesuit's Jason Lowery say Brink is the best player they've ever coached against. Gifted opponents saturated with Division One talent such as Beaverton never beat Southridge, primarily because the towering post took up residence both physically and mentally on the floor any time the Metro rivals played.
Calling Brink a difference-making talent might do her all-world talent justice. She does things on the court other players cannot do. She's tall and angular, swift, coordinated, aggressive, intense. Her skills from the perimeter are becoming a weapon. Brink's post game, rooted in old school fundamentals, is blossoming. She's raining Dirk Nowitzki-like one-legged turnaround jumpers, taking defenders out on the perimeter and crossing them up like a guard. Her passing from the high post and out of double teams has always been underrated but will come to light more this season. There is so much more to her game than the advantages her blessed dimensions give her. She works on her craft endlessly. Brink has trained with the best, be it competing for Team USA's youth teams, training with WNBA champion Sue Bird or learning the tricks of the trade from OG trainers such as Antoine Stoudamire. Defensively, she could have played in a Division One game two years ago. Now, beginning her senior year, she's stronger, sturdier and even more agile.
She's a once-in-a-generation player to coach, one that Mountainside head coach Glen Lee and the Mavericks get the good fortune of grooming and deploying around an encouraging young core. Brink probably wouldn't have come to Mountainside if there wasn't talent already in place, girls she would want to play with. With youthful stars such as sophomores Lindsey Wilson and Halle Hagman and a cast that's ready to contend, Brink is far from alone.
"The Mavs should be in the hunt this year and will look to challenge the big four in the league: Beaverton, Southridge, Jesuit and Westview," Lee said. "Beaverton returns everyone, Southridge is defending league champs and Jesuit and Westview are always in the hunt. So I suspect the Mavs will be somewhere in that mix."
Outside expectations are already sky-high, as they should be with Brink on the floor. Many expect the Mavs to contend for Metro as well as a state title. In the preseason coaches' poll, Mountainside was voted third. And despite losing to Canby in non-league play, the Mavericks still received three first place votes and stayed fourth in the coaches' poll. For a school that just started playing varsity ball last year, that might seem unreasonable. But more so, it speaks to Brink's ability. She can raise her game when the stakes are highest and bring her team along.
"Cameron brings her tremendous skill set to the Mavs this season and will have a huge impact right away," Lee said. "Her ability to play multiple positions for us is going to allow us to play her everywhere on the floor. She also brings big-time game experience and on-court leadership, not to mention length and athleticism."
Hageman started at point guard as a freshman last year and earned second-team All-Metro honors.
"Halle brings tremendous court awareness and the ability to set her teammates up for good shots," Lee said. "She can also fill it up from the outside, as well as take it off the dribble."
Wilson was also a second-team All-Metro honoree as a freshman. The 6-foot sophomore post saw her share of double teams last year. But with Brink residing in the starting lineup, those schemes should be a thing of the past.
"This season with Cameron on board it should free up her up in the paint area," Lee said. "Lindsey has also improved her range from inside out."
Joining those aforementioned three in the starting lineup is sophomore guard Carly Stone and fellow sophomore guard Taylor Smith. Stone is a creative ball-handling guard off the dribble, with passing skills and with high basketball intellect, according to Lee. She also has outstanding shooting skills from the three-point line and beyond. Smith is a quick-release sharpshooter, with deep range for the Mavs.
Look for senior Hailey Lines and sophomore Shaylee Gonzalez to factor into the rotation. Gonzalez is a long, athletic slasher for the Mavs. Lee said Lines can play multiple positions for the Mavs and will look to fill many roles.
"She's smooth as silk from the perimeter and brings game-time experience to the court," Lee said.
The Mavericks travel to Arizona for the Nike Tournament of Champions from Dec. 18-21 and then come home and play in the PIL Holiday Classic from Dec. 27-29. Brink will get another crack at Benson, who beat Southridge in the 6A title game last year when the two do battle in the Martin Luther King Invitational at the Chiles Center on Jan. 20.
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