Homecoming for Beaverton's Cameron Brink
Life's been pretty good to Cameron Brink over the last couple of years. She enrolled at and has attended her dream school, Stanford University, won an NCAA women's basketball national championship with the Cardinal and has twice earned All-Pac-12 honors. Additionally, last year she was named WBCA All-America and was an Associated Press Third Team All-American, and this year was named to the Naismith Trophy Watch List. But despite what she has and continues to do on the sport's national stage, she was equally excited about what she did Nov. 13—went home.
The former Southridge and Mountainside High School standout's No. 2-ranked Stanford team played—and predictably defeated—the University of Portland at the Chiles Center on the campus of the University of Portland. And sure, she had played in front of packed crowds up and down the west coast, at two Final Fours, and against the University of Arizona in the 2021 national title game, but there's nothing like playing in front of family and friends.
"It's really exciting for me to come back home," Brink said prior to the game. "Mostly because Portland is less than 30 minutes from where I live, so to be able to go back and play in front of my friends and family, and in a gym that I won two state championships is going to be pretty special."
Brink's last game at the Chiles Center was a win over her former school, Southridge, in the consolation bracket of the 2019-20 OSAA Girls State Basketball Tournament following a quarterfinal loss to Liberty. Prior, the former No. 3-nationally ranked player in the 2020 high school class won two state championships for the Skyhawks before transferring to the then new Beaverton high school—Mountainside—for her senior season.
But while a burgeoning superstar the last time she pounded the hardwood at Chiles, she returned as one of the college game's biggest stars, on one of it's most iconic teams.
Stanford—under Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer—has won three national championships and been to 13 Final Fours in the last 32 years. That record, along with VanDerveer and the obvious perks of a Stanford University education made Brink's decision to attend and play basketball for the Cardinal an easy one when her high school career came to an end.
"Stanford was always my dream since I was young," Brink said. "I count my lucky stars every day that I was able to come here because it's just a really special experience, and I'm just very grateful."
The junior said this is shaping up as the first "normal" year for her since stepping on the campus in Palo Alto. Her freshman year was disrupted due to the pandemic, and even this past season was a compromised version as a result of the ongoing travel and mask restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. So, as she and her team embark on the 2022-23 campaign, the now upperclassmen is trying to really enjoy what she in some ways was denied since arriving at Stanford.
"My freshman year was crazy because we were in full-on pandemic mode and then my sophomore year was a little more normal," she said, "but this year we have all our fans at home games and people can travel without fear, so I'm just really grateful for every day I have here."
And there are more days ahead. Brink recently communicated her interest in staying for her senior season despite being eligible for next year's WNBA Draft. She said the decision was based primarily around her desire to enjoy what's left of her college career while at the same time making the most of her academic experience at one of the nation's top academic schools. But don't kid yourself, she aspires to play at the next level and wants basketball to be a part of her life as long as she's capable of competing at the highest level.
"I definitely want to play professionally, I just want to get my degree," Brink said. "But God willing, I'll get drafted and get to play basketball as long as I can."
She's getting better too. Despite being a consistent contributor since arriving at Stanford, this season—as an upperclassman—she said she's taken on more of a leadership role, while at the same time reaping the benefits of competing day in and day out with some of the country's more elite collegiate talent. That's something she said Coach VanDerveer preaches to current and prospective Cardinal players, and something Brink said she's benefitted from over the last two years.
"Tara (VanDeveer) says iron sharpens iron, so playing against the best players is the only way to get better," Brink said. "Every practice I'm playing against some of the best post players in the nation, and my teammates and I are always pushing each other to make each other better."
And when basketball is over? Brink isn't quite sure what she might like to do, but she does think she might like to move back to Oregon—if and when life takes her there.
"I would love to move back to Oregon, but we'll see," she said. "You know, the future is so uncertain, but it's exciting at the same time."
Stanford won the game over Portland 87-47, and Brink finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, nine rebounds and five blocked shots in just 21 minutes of action.
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