With Help From The Vets, Stanford’s Cameron Brink Grew Into 3x3 World Cup MVP
by Bob Reinert
It’s hard to imagine a better debut performance than the one Cameron Brink turned in earlier this month in Vienna.
Playing in her first international 3x3 basketball tournament, Brink led Team USA to a gold medal and was named MVP of the FIBA 3x3 World Cup. It was the U.S. women’s first win at the 3x3 World Cup since 2014, and their record third overall.
Brink, a 6-foot-4 rising senior at Stanford University, totaled 39 points and 45 rebounds while playing suffocating defense for the Americans. The U.S. overcame an opening loss to Canada in pool play on May 30 and defeated defending champion France in the gold-medal game five days later.
“It was really a life-changing experience,” said Brink, a 21-year-old from Beaverton, Oregon. “I just came out of it so much of a more complete player. Built so many great relationships. It was just such a great group of people. It’s the most fun I’ve had with USA Basketball.”
Brink combined with veteran players Cierra Burdick and Linnae Harper and Hailey Van Lith, who recently transferred from the University of Louisville to Louisiana State University, to bring home the gold medal. The four players had just three weeks to come together and form a cohesive unit.
“We really had to jell quickly, and it was difficult, and there was frustration,” Brink recalled. “There definitely were some growing pains, for sure.
“I definitely was kind of shocked by the (3x3) environment. Playing outside was new to me. Just the atmosphere overall was a little bit to adjust to, and I think my first game you could kind of tell. I was kind of like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ Against Canada, I just didn’t play great.”
Brink had just one point, three rebounds and a pair of turnovers in that 16-13 loss to an experienced Canadian team.
“I wouldn’t say we really played a team like Canada the rest of the way,” she said. “They’ve been playing together forever. They were a really disciplined, smart team. They’re just really hard to guard. They’re also really physical.”
With the help of her more seasoned teammates, Brink regrouped after the opener. Both Burdick, 29, and Harper, 28, have been around at the pro and international level for years.
“They all did a great job with preparing me, kind of setting my expectations,” she said. “I think I adjusted. I think I finally got the hang of it.
“There was never any concern. We know that 3x3 is a super-volatile game. It was just a good reminder that if we don’t bring it, any team can beat us.”
After studying video of the opener, the Americans whipped Hungary, 20-10, the first of seven straight wins, including a 16-12 decision over France in the final.
Brink believed the team's recipe for success fell on them getting along.
“I think it was just a really good combination of different types of players,” Brink said. “I think (USA Basketball) also kind of saw that we all got along.
“I think the committee saw that bringing in me for my size and my defense was a great (addition). Obviously, Hailey and Linnae, they’re just offensive weapons. They can score at will. And then Cierra, she’s just solid all around, one of the best leaders I’ve ever played with. Just knows what she’s doing.”
Brink said she enjoyed playing with her veteran teammates.
“I haven’t played with players that much older than me before,” she said. “I think it was a great experience to see that type of leadership. It’s just different, you know? They’re pros. And they really showed me what that is at the next level.”
Brink will spend the rest of the summer playing with USA Basketball’s U24 3x3 team. They’ll take part in the FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series, which concludes with the Women’s Series Final in September in Mongolia.
“I’m in the best shape of my life right now from 3x3,” she said. “You’re just constantly moving.”
Brink will take her elevated fitness level and lessons learned in 3x3 back to Stanford in the fall.
“Especially being a senior now, having more of a role on the team than last year,” said Brink, “I think just knowing that I can do more than just post up, developing those guard skills, also continuing my shot blocking but also being able to guard guards.
“It was hard for me last year to work more from the perimeter or the pinch because of just how our offense worked. I think this year it’s just going to be a little different, and hopefully I can score from different spots more frequently.”
If that happens, Brink will be able to trace her on-court growth back to the world cup.
“I’m just so thankful for the experience,” Brink said. “I was just super thankful to be a part of it. We were so close as an organization. I can’t say enough good things about the experience.”