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Going For Gold

Southridge Sophomore Cameron Brink is Headed to Europe to try and help Team USA come out on top in the FIBA Under-17 Women's World Cup

Kyle Pinnell

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On May 24, sophomore Cameron Brink and over 250 other girls made their way to Colorado Springs to try out for the USA Basketball Under-17 Trials. By May 30, that number was cut down to 12

It had been a long week for Southridge sophomore and Oregon Girls Basketball Player of the Year Cameron Brink. A week after arriving in Colorado Springs, Brink and 17 other girls surrounded a single piece of paper on the wall that decided their fate.

That sheet was the final roster for the United States Under-17 basketball team that will be competing in Washington D.C, Latvia, and Belarus this July.

“I definitely had doubt going through my mind because it’s a nerve-racking experience,” Brink said.

When Brink saw her number on the roster, she felt a sense of relief. “It means that all my hard work paid off,” she said.

A year ago Cameron was named as one of the 18 finalists for the USA U-16 team but was among the final cuts. It was a feat in itself to make the final 18, but Brink wasn’t satisfied.

As Brink left Colorado a year ago, she was told that she needed to work on her strength and get a jump shot. She was going against post players who weighed at least 50 pounds more than her and were much stronger. The coaches believed that Brink would be better utilized as a stretch forward, a position that Southridge Head Coach Michael Bergmann played her in for the Skyhawks this past season.

Over the past year, Brink was determined to continue working on the little aspects of her game so that she would have a shot at making the final roster this summer. That led to Brink spending even more time in the gym and scrimmaging against boys to become a better post defender and stronger overall.

As far as the format of the trials goes, the first few days aren’t all that nerve-racking according to Brink. At the U-17 and U-16 level, any player who wants the experience can attend the first few days.

“As [the roster] gets cut down to 45… that is when you really start to get nervous because you’re with the best players and so you have no room for error,” Brink said.

“Everyone is trying to impress the committee. They’re watching your every move, so you have to be perfect every time,” she added.

The tryouts are strategically located in Colorado Springs because of its high altitude and tough workout conditions. The idea is that when the girls train here, it should be easier to fly up and down the court when they play in the World Cup in Europe.

The girls are forced get used to the altitude quickly. If the players aren’t cheering on their teammates, communicating when a shot goes up, or actively participating, even on the sideline, they would be instructed to line up on the end line and run wind sprints.

“In practice, if you’re in line you have to be clapping or talking. You can never be silent unless you’re running,” Brink said. “This is the best shape that I have ever been in.”

Once the 18 finalists were announced, they had two-a-day practices for three days before the roster was finalized.

Monday was a particularly tough day for Brink and the other finalists. The morning practice included multiple fast-break drills, full-court defense drills, and lots of running.

“Monday was the hardest practice of my life,” Brink said.

To make the day even worse, the dorms weren’t ready for the exhausted girls after that practice, so many of them had to sleep on the floor between the morning and afternoon sessions.

 

Brink has some lofty goals for the summer which include getting a gold medal in Belarus and making a positive impact on the team every day.

“I’m just going to try and be a leader and maybe start, possibly. That’s a good goal; we’ll see,” Brink said.

While Brink may miss her family during the month as the time difference can be up to ten hours, she’s glad she has her California Stars teammate, Haley Jones, on the team.

“I feel that mentally I may get beaten down a bit,” Brink said when asked about the challenges of the upcoming month. “But I feel like I’ve always gotten stronger.”

Being a part of the U.S team will always be an honor and Brink does not take this experience for granted as she was cut from the team last year. She hopes that she can come back from Europe with a variety of new skills and experience that can benefit the Skyhawks as they chase their third straight state championship next season.

For now, all she wants to do in the coming months is work hard, add more skills to her game, and win a gold medal.

“Our last team in 2016 got the bronze [medal], so it is important for us that we finish it out and win gold.”

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