Why Cameron Brink declared for WNBA Draft: Stanford star on her future, Caitlin Clark appreciation and more

Cameron Brink, Tara VanDerveer

Two blonde braids control the court at Maples Pavilion.

Cameron Brink is unmistakable. And it’s not just the Stanford forward’s 6-4 stature and signature style that stand out.

It’s the way she makes block after emphatic block on defense, then turns around to be the Cardinal’s second-best scorer. It’s her relentless aggression, which carried her from a national title in her freshman year through her All-American senior season.

Her style of play clearly works. That’s one of the reasons she chose to enter the WNBA Draft now rather than return to Stanford for a fifth season.

Cameron Brink on making her WNBA decision

Brink, 22, is putting the finishing touches on of one of the most efficient college basketball careers of all time.

Her player efficiency rating of 46.2 leads the NCAA for the 2023-24 season, according to College Basketball Reference. Her career rating of 40.45 ranks 13th since 1987, putting her in the elite company of such stars as Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson.

She’s accomplished almost everything possible at the collegiate level: a national championship, two Pac-12 player of the year awards, multiple All-America honors. She owns Stanford’s career and single-season block records, with 417 and 120 blocks and counting.

Still, as Brink navigated her senior season, the decision to go pro or play a fifth year of collegiate basketball seemed daunting. She sat down with a decision-making professor at Stanford for help with the analytics of her future.

“We kind of just sat down. It was almost like a chart…like this was what will happen if you stay, this is what will happen if you leave,” she told Sporting News. “I wouldn’t say I made my decision in that moment, but it definitely put me in the right direction.”

In the end, Brink decided to make the leap to the WNBA, as she announced via social media on March 12. She is widely projected to be selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft.

Cameron Brink on Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer and the pressure of success

Brink’s fateful meeting on her future came on Jan. 22.

Cardinal faithful may remember seeing head coach Tara VanDerveer on “Good Morning America” that morning. She had broken the NCAA basketball career wins record the previous night, then woke up at 4 a.m. Pacific Time for her interview — and then four hours later, she helped Brink map out her options.

“She probably wanted to go back to sleep, but that woman’s wired,” Brink said.

With her skill set, Brink was destined to be a good college basketball player. What VanDerveer taught her is what will make her great in the pros.

The Stanford coach hammers home this slogan with her squad: “Do your best and forgive the rest.” The mantra has carried VanDerveer through 1,216 wins and counting, and it instills confidence, trust and joy in her players. That last one in particular resonates with Brink.

“The fact that she can be like, ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s a game, you have established yourself, you’re here for a reason,’ means a lot,” Brink said. “She’s very light-hearted. …

“It’s about enjoying each day, about loving each moment you have with people you love. And so she’s just a very joyous woman.”

For Brink, the pressure of her prominent place in women’s basketball sometimes leads to performance anxiety. VanDerveer’s mindset helps ease the strain.

So does all the work Brink does to prepare for the biggest stage: “Prehab” with trainers to protect from injury. Meditation and breathwork before games. Reminders to play freely and for the love of basketball.

“I’m just proud of the way I’ve been playing and that’s because I play, it sounds silly, but I play from my heart and I try to play the right way,” Brink said. “I may not average crazy numbers, but I think people can appreciate that I love to play the game the right way.”

Brink doesn’t want to miss a moment, especially during March Madness.

During the Pac-12 Tournament, in which the Cardinal played three games in four days, Brink struggled with a hip contusion. She used Icy Hot to keep her on the court. Brink signed an NIL deal with the brand last September, and she counts it as another tool in her arsenal.

“To work with a brand that I’ve known since I was a young, young kid, seeing my dad use it all the time and my mom…It’s like a full circle moment, a brand that has such a wide reach is really, really cool,” she said. “It’s just really cool that they want to take the time to work with me.”

Cameron Brink on Caitlin Clark and the new era of the women’s game

Brink’s deals with Icy Hot and New Balance, spotlight the shifting landscape of college sports. And the women’s game in particular is seeing even bigger changes.

During the 2021 NCAA Tournament, Brink’s first with the Cardinal, another basketball player took to TikTok to expose discrepancies in the treatment of women’s and men’s teams. The backlash brought a number of changes, including the women’s tournament finally earning March Madness branding.

Just three years later, women’s college basketball is wrapping up arguably its biggest season yet, with scoring records, viewership records and attendance records shattering across the country.

While the movement is larger than any one player, there’s no denying the role of Iowa senior Caitlin Clark, as Brink acknowledged.

“I just appreciate her so much, and you have to appreciate what she’s done for the women’s game especially right now in college. That bleeds over everywhere,” Brink said. “People are really invested in us, and it feels really nice. We love the recognition.”

Both Clark and Brink will move to the WNBA together in April, likely as the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the draft. Expect Clark to join the Indiana Fever, while Brink will likely move down the California coast to play for the Los Angeles Sparks.

Brink will leave behind deep roots in the Bay Area, in Stanford and in her extended family — namely, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry.

Brink’s mother and Curry’s mother were roommates at Virginia Tech, where Michelle Bain-Brink played basketball and Sonya Curry played volleyball.

The pair were not originally assigned to live together, but neither of them liked their original roommates. So they decided to switch, and fate stepped in. The rest is history.

With Sonya and Dell Curry as Brink’s godparents, the families grew up together. Stephen, his wife Ayesha and their children live just 10 minutes away from Stanford’s campus.

But it all started with Sonya and Michelle.

“They’re the two biggest and most amazing women in my life,” Brink said. “I call them our north stars, they’re just our world. So it’s just nice that they came together and just blended our families, and we’ve just been inseparable.”

With so much tying Brink to Stanford and women’s college basketball booming around her, the decision to leave for the WNBA was not an easy one. But for Brink, that was the best part about making it.

“I think there’s been a lot of pros and cons to staying and a lot to leaving, and I think that’s what’s made this decision so hard,” she said. “I think the beautiful thing, though, is that the decision has been so hard — that Stanford has been such a safe haven and a place for me, where I have grown so much.”

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