Canzano: Cameron Brink is in the March Madness business
Stanford star chases national title.
The prevailing theory is that college basketball is over in the Pacific Northwest. That all of our region’s teams have been eliminated from the postseason. That there’s nothing left to root for in the NCAA Tournament. Except that’s all wrong.
You’ve got Cameron Brink.
We’ve got her.
Portland Gear has her, too. On their payroll, that is.
More on that last bit in a moment. First, understand that the 6-foot-5 Brink grew up in Beaverton and is a star player on the Stanford women’s basketball team. The No. 1-seed Cardinal play No. 2-seed Connecticut on Friday in a Final Four semifinal.
Brink, the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year, had six blocked shots and 10 points in her team’s 59-50 Elite Eight victory over Texas in Spokane. The game was a tug-of-war and Brink played the role of anchor.
“You’re so proud, you’re so excited and you know it’s March so anything can happen and your team can go home at any point,” her mother, Michelle, said. “It’s such a conflict of emotions.”
Michelle played her college ball at Virginia Tech. Her roommate there was Sonya Curry, Steph’s mother. Brink’s father, Greg, was teammates with Dell, Steph’s dad. This is how the Curry’s came to be Cameron’s godparents.
“This all feels so far fetched,” Michelle said.
June marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX being passed into American law and helping create gender equality in sport. Michelle said this week, “If it weren’t for Title IX I’m not at college in Blacksburg, Va. There’s no college sports for me.
“None of this happens.”
Marcus Harvey grew up in Oregon, attended college in Eugene, and built the Portland Gear brand off sweat, big ideas and the fact that nobody else bothered to grab the @Portland Instagram handle.
Harvey snatched it and built a clothing empire in our state. He lives here. He works here. He and his wife had a baby girl, named Kinley, last year. Harvey has regularly invested in the region and even jumped on board as part of the investment group for the Portland Diamond Project.
When it came time to design a new apparel line at Portland Gear Harvey decided to do something that would have been unthinkable under the old NCAA rules — pay a college player to help.
He wanted to go local.
“Cam was ideal. She’s got a bad-ass attitude on the court,” Harvey told me. “She’s a hometown kid. As a new girl-dad I wanted to partner with a female athlete.”
Brink, 20, played three seasons at Southridge High. She moved to Mountainside High for her senior year. Then, it was on to Stanford, where her major is now listed as: “Undeclared.” But it feels like she has a promising future with both basketball and business.
When legislation was passed that allowed college athletes to benefit from partnerships, sponsorships and endorsements using their name-image-likeness (NIL), Brink lined up with the Wasserman agency. She’s now in partnership with a stable of companies that includes Great Clips, Spotify, Third Love, Celsius Fitness Drink and Portland Gear.
Said Harvey: “She sent us inspiration for her style. Things she liked. Her favorite colors. Fits. Graphics. And then we collaboratively went back and forth on graphics until we landed on things she liked.”
Said her mother, Michelle: “It’s incredible to see what’s happened with the power of a female athlete.”
Mom sat daughter down months ago and talked with her about how far the women’s college game has evolved over the years. Michelle didn’t just explain why legislation such as Title IX was significant. She underscored the notion that Cameron Brink herself probably doesn’t exist without it.
No Stanford scholarship.
No back-to-back Final Fours.
No opportunity to grow her own brand and design that custom line with Harvey’s team at Portland Gear.
Stanford is 32-3 and will play coach Geno Auriemma’s UConn machine on Friday in Minneapolis. Connecticut has appeared in 14 straight women’s Final Fours. The defending national champion Cardinal, meanwhile, haven’t lost since December.
It will be an epic test.
“Anything can happen,” Michelle said.
You’re going to be told that our region doesn’t have a dog left in the fight. That our college basketball rooting interests either didn’t qualify for the postseason or were quickly ushered out. But don’t believe it when you hear it. There are still four teams left in the men’s bracket and four more on the women’s side.
There is still Cameron Brink.
She is homegrown.
That feels worth pulling for.
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