The truth in first impressions

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FOR THE FIRST 10 years of his life, Cameron had no interest in basketball. Her parents exposed her to different sports, but never pushed her in any direction. Cameron was first inspired by volleyball, watching the 2012 Olympics at the Curry House in Charlotte, North Carolina. Michelle played a year of volleyball for Virginia Tech, where she was teammate with former Sonya Adams, the mother of basketball superstar Stephen Curry.

Cameron did indeed play volleyball, winning a state championship in high school and receiving a scholarship offer to play at the center of mighty Nebraska, where she could play two sports. But, for the most part, Cameron’s interests leaned more towards art than athletics.

That’s where the Currys came in. The first family of basketball is also the Cameron family. There is no difference between the other two that they lived in different houses. Whenever possible, Cameron and his older brother Cy, as well as the three Curry children, were raised together. Cameron is Dell and Sonya’s goddaughter. And Stephen is Greg and Michelle’s godson. The parents have been close — Greg and Dell were basketball teammates — since college and the families are so close they think of each other as one.

“Cameron didn’t want to play basketball because she knew we were playing basketball,” Michelle said. “When you say something to your own child, it will usually go the opposite way. But Sonya, because she’s a teacher, recognizes things in children. Just the way Cameron ran and moved, we all felt that she could be an athlete in some way. And Sonya recognized that.

“Every time we were with her, Sonya would say, ‘So you still want to be an artist? You don’t want to play sports? She kept asking him and probing. ‘Why Cameron? Why don’t you try you not?

Eventually, Cameron did, but wasn’t happy about it. Living in Amsterdam for three years while Greg and Michelle worked for Nike in the European market, the Brinks returned for the birth of Stephen and Ayesha’s first child, daughter Riley. The stay in Charlotte coincided with Dell’s summer basketball camp.

“You can’t sit here by the pool all week,” Michelle told Cameron. “You must be active.”

Cameron wouldn’t budge. However, after some negotiation, Cameron finally agreed to leave, but only for half days.

“I’m so proud of you for coming today,” Dell said.

“No, you’re not,” she spat.

At first, Cam was, predictably, miserable. But every day she got a little better and her confidence started to grow. Upon their return to the Netherlands, Cameron joined a team. The rules were a little funky – lower hoops, no backcourt defense – but Cameron thought they were really good compared to the other kids.

“That’s when the bug bit,” Michelle said.

When they moved back to Oregon a year later, Cameron hooked up with a strong club with good training and quickly became the eighth-grader who caught the eye of Amy Tucker.

“If she wasn’t so competitive, she probably wouldn’t have turned the corner,” Greg said.

Cameron called his competitiveness his greatest strength, but it can get him in trouble. Stanford’s final two games of the Pac-12 tournament provided insight into both sides of Brink – dominant play and frustration.

In the semifinals against Colorado, Brink was involved in a showdown with the equally feisty Mya Hollingshed. Brink responded to the incident by stepping up his game, with crafty field goals, two blocked shots, four steals, nine rebounds and 14 points.

“I’m Cameron Brink and you’re not,” Pac-12 network analyst Mary Murphy remarked during a dominant streak.

Brink even hit a three — jogging with three fingers in the air like his godfather — as Stanford ran away from the Buffaloes, 71-45.

“She’s an incredible athlete,” said teammate Anna Wilson. “It’s really up to her how good she wants to be.”

The following afternoon against Utah, Brink was limited to 18 minutes due to a foul issue. Stanford outscored Utah by 20 with Brink on the floor, but were outscored by one with Brink on the bench, until the Cardinal took a big lead in the final minutes of a 73-48 blowout.

The fouls are Brink’s kryptonite, preventing him from playing more impactful minutes.

“She has fouls of lack of discipline, where she falls on people or reaches,” VanDerveer said. “I also think in some games there is a microscope on her. Sometimes she gets no love from officials. And, there’s a lot of times where she gets beat up and they don’t call anything, and she plays through that.

“As a player, you have to adapt to refereeing. My dad always used to say, “Repetition of mistakes shows lack of intelligence. You can’t keep doing the same wrong thing. You need to make adjustments in your game. If they’re calling things, don’t do what they’re calling.

VanDerveer considered benching Brink to teach him a lesson.

“No apologies,” Brink said. “But I always start.”

Even when the subject switched to shot blocking, one of Brink’s most spectacular skills, it didn’t go away.

When asked to recall his favorite block, Brink replied, “Any block that isn’t called a foul.”

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