Oregon prospect Cameron Brink carries advice from Steph Curry to USA Basketball trials
SALEM, Ore. -- Too often for her own taste, Cameron Brink hears a clunk instead of a swish when she lets it fly from the free throw line. But this 6-foot-4 women's basketball prospect is not above asking for help.
She just turns to a guy who is shooting 90 percent from the line -- the NBA free throw line -- for a few tips. His name is Steph Curry.
Brink, who will be a sophomore next year at Southridge (Beaverton, Oregon) and excels closer to the basket, finishing at the rim or kicking it out to her teammates when she draws a double team, considers the NBA superstar her brother.
Her mom, Michelle Bain-Brink, was roommates with Sonya Curry at Virginia Tech and has known Steph since he was born. The families are close, and Michelle sees some of the legendary Curry qualities emerging in her daughter.
"Steph is a goal-oriented, confident person," Michelle said. "And I see that developing in Cameron more and more all the time."
The next goal for Brink, who led Southridge to a state title in March, is making the USA Basketball U16 team. She is one of 35 invited athletes expected to attend trials this weekend in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"I want to talk as much as I can, give everyone high fives, be a presence and hustle," Brink said of her trials goal. "And just outwork people. That's what I think I'm best at."
Brink has already drawn some serious recruiting attention. Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, South Carolina, Arizona and Ohio State are among the schools that have offered her scholarships.
All that attention is for good reason, Northwest Stars AAU club director Angie Sun said.
"Cameron can rip a rebound and fly in transition," Sun said. "If you're not in front of her, you're not going to catch her."
Opposing Portland-area teams saw that more than a few times, as Brink averaged 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks last season.
"What makes her unique is that she has the athleticism of a guard, but she's 6-[foot]-4," Southridge coach Mike Bergmann said.
Art before basketball
Brink's mom, Michelle, and dad, Greg, met while playing basketball at Virginia Tech. Growing up, Cameron saw the Curry family play again and again against one another on Brink-Curry summer vacations.
Year after year, Brink wanted to spend her time with paint instead of in the paint. Three summers in a row, she attended art camps -- even though basketball was literally all around her.
"I wasn't really into sports at all," Brink said.
Somehow, basketball seemed like the inevitable. One summer, when the Brinks where visiting the Currys in Charlotte, Michelle told her daughter that she couldn't just sit around. So Brink went for a half-day at Dell Curry's basketball camp -- just to stay active. It was a back-and-forth negotiation, Michelle said.
After Brink tried out for -- and made -- a sixth-grade team as a fifth-grader while the Brinks were living in Amsterdam for three years, she realized that basketball was her calling after all. Her mom, dad and brother, Cy, who will row at Washington next year, moved back to the States before she started sixth grade.
Watching the Curry brothers battle it out on family vacations helped reel her in too.
"They were always so competitive," Brink said. "They would get mad if they lose. I was like, 'Hey. What's that? Why are they so upset?' I was always influenced by that competitiveness."
Brink, who also plays volleyball at Southridge, didn't quite have Curry-esque moves from the start. Once she showed up to a gym in boots and a skirt. Another time, she checked into a game -- not realizing that stopping at the scorers' table was required.
Now one of the nation's top rising sophomores, Brink embraces those moments.
"Just the other day, I remembered I couldn't dribble with my left hand," she said. "It's humbling."
As a freshman, Brink helped Southridge to a 27-2 record. She was the lone underclassman named to the postseason all-tournament team, which included Tennessee-bound Evina Westbrook.
Westbrook's impact isn't lost on Brink.
"Cameron turns to me, and she's like, 'That's what I want when I'm a senior.' I'm like 'OK, wow,'" Michelle said after watching Westbrook in the Oregon-Washington all-star game. "Her confidence always blows me away. I never had that level of confidence."
Brink might still be getting used to high school, but that doesn't mean she hasn't thought about the future. Someday, she would like to work for Nike, where her dad currently works and where her mom worked as a product line manager before she retired.
Before Dawn Staley coached at South Carolina, Michelle collaborated with Staley on her signature shoe. Not surprisingly, Cameron can rattle off Nike's current line of basketball shoes. (For the record, she prefers Kobe Bryant low tops, women's size 13).
Trips to the Nike Employee Store, where gear is discounted, are can't-miss excursions. Brink could see herself teaming up with athletes for shoe designs someday or becoming a sports scientist or studying communications to be a sideline reporter.
One thing's for certain: It's no longer painting.
"She's willing to sacrifice what all her friends -- what a 15-year-old's life should look like -- to chase her dreams," Sun said. "It's fun to see."
But how about chasing her dreams (or at least that swish sound) from the free throw line? What was the advice she got from that Curry guy?
Curry told Brink to imagine a string attached to her forehead and running to the wall beyond the basket. Then, when she releases her shot, her goal is to break the string with a crisp follow through, forcing her to keep her shooting arm close.
"I think about it every time I shoot now," Brink said.