Stanford's Cameron Brink guided by basketball, mental health and family

Stanford’s Cameron Brink guided by basketball, mental health and family

Since her junior year of high school, Stanford junior Cameron Brink has lost just 22 games.

His 159-22 record in that era includes a national championship in his first season with the Cardinal.

She has already confirmed that she will return for her senior season, during which she will be the centerpiece of the roster. This year, the 6-foot-4 forward is hailed on watch lists as one of the best players in the country.

“There’s always pressure,” Brink said. “I’m good at putting more on myself. Even last year I was so scared of losing and I think that was the wrong kind of motivation. This year, I put him in the desire to win and find the right kind of pressure.

Brink was one of September’s recipients of the CALHope Courage Award, given by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) to California student-athletes who overcome the stress, anxiety and mental trauma associated with personal difficulties and adversity.

She has been open about her mental health issues that were sparked at the start of the pandemic. The Cardinal spent nine weeks on the road during his national championship run due to COVID protocols that prevented contact sports in Santa Clara County.

“Everyone has their own way of coping,” she said. “I’m really good at being vulnerable. Whenever I’m in a bad mood or not having a good day, people around me will know. Mental health should be seen as hygiene, like brushing your teeth every day, you have to control yourself, so I was not afraid to share that I struggled mentally.

In this 2020-21 season, Brink hasn’t seen his parents for months at a time for the first time in his life. His mother, Michelle Bain-Brink, was unable to see the games in person before the Pac-12 tournament.

His only encounter with his daughter at the Final Four in San Antonio came by chance: she was in the lobby delivering books to send to her daughter, and they saw each other through a door.

“She happened to be on her way to the bus,” Bain-Brink said. “It was the closest we’ve been in months, and we both had a little tears.”

Brink said COVID gave him “time to sit with my thoughts, and it was really scary.”

Isolated in a way she had never been, like so many college athletes were, she felt like she couldn’t trust her mind. Her godmother, Sydel Curry-Lee (Stephen’s sister), helped her open up.

Fred Luskin, the director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects whom Brink calls the “teacher of happiness,” speaks before each Tuesday about the practice of mental health. Brink credited him with some of his coping mechanisms. She also sees a sports psychologist at Stanford.

Attention also followed Brink and his family. She has over 28,000 followers on Instagram and has started getting social media endorsements like Netflix and Urban Outfitters as she navigates the world of name, image and likeness (NIL).

“It can be surreal, for her and for us,” Bain-Brink said. “The other day in a bank, a little girl asked, ‘Are you Cam Brink’s mother?’ It’s interesting to have a personal identity and then to be the parents of your child for other people.

Entering her third season, Brink is already a National Champion, Naismith Defender of the Year finalist, two-time Pac-12 Champion, and a member of the Pac-12 Pre-Season First Team. Last season, Brink shot 55% from the floor (22nd nationally) and led the Cardinal in points (13.5), rebounds (8.1) and blocks (2.6).

“She’s going to be so tough to deal with this year,” said teammate Haley Jones. “She has improved so much and she already had a great year last year.”

Stanford has been on Brink longer than she’s been on the roster. She was recruited as an eighth-grader to a camp where she battled against a roster of then-students after advancing through the age group each day. Then-associate head coach Amy Tucker recruited her soon after.

“I watched her get a rebound and she started to dribble across the court and finished on the other side with a Euro shot,” the former Cardinal assistant coach said. “I turned to our current associate head coach, Kate Paye, and said, ‘We have to offer him. “”

At the end of camp, Tucker presented the scholarship to Brink. Brink, then 13, thought it was an offer for the next camp, not to join the Cardinal.

The offer came two years after she started playing basketball. Brink was hesitant to play the sport that both of his parents played in college. While in Amsterdam, she finally relented after Sonya Curry – Steph’s mother and a roommate of Brink’s mother – convinced her to do half days at a boys’ basketball camp. At the end of the week, she asked to participate in the full days.

“She’s very competitive,” Bain-Brink said. “This fall she went back to school and joined the basketball team. She was the youngest on the team, and it was different in Europe, they had lower hoops and no backcourt defense. But she tasted success.

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