June 19, 2024 

What Cameron Brink’s season-ending injury means for the Sparks

“I’m not defined by basketball, but it is something that I love deeply and I will work everyday to get back to it.”

Cameron Brink has had impressive start in Los Angeles, with a primary goal of staying on the floor, specifically as it refers to foul trouble. Unfortunately, the No. 2 pick from this year’s draft won’t be back on the floor again for the rest of the season.

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Brink tore the ACL in her left knee just three minutes into Tuesday’s matchup against the Connecticut Sun, ending her season and leaving Los Angeles with a 6’4-sized gap in their front court, now set to miss their energetic and talented rim protector. 

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After the game, Sparks coach Curt Miller told reporters, “You just have to have the mentality of the next person up and rally around it.” 

Last night, the next person up was Li Yueru, the 2019 third round pick who is playing in her first season for the Sparks. Yueru has been playing behind Brink so far this season, averaging an efficient 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in only 12.8 minutes.

If last night’s game and this morning’s confirmation were any indication, that number is about to get a lot higher. Yueru played 26 minutes Tuesday, shooting 5-for-6 from the floor. Yueru told reporters after the game that in Brink’s absence, she was really trying to “focus on defense and focus to run the play, focus on getting rebounds, focus on one thing. Don’t think too much.” 

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Miller told Locked On Women’s Basketball, “My heart is out. Our prayer warriors are out for Cameron right now. But also I look at it as, the story quickly becomes what this opportunity potentially could open the door for someone. Last night, Li Yeuru, as a 25-year-old 6’7 young post player, really stepped up in her place.”

While still waiting for confirmation of Brink’s injury on Wednesday morning, Coach Miller told Locked on Women’s Basketball he tries to remain positive around potential “unintended consequences” when one of his players is faced with an injury.

“I look at all the success through the years of it opening the door for other players,” he said, noting Alyssa Thomas’ move from the three to the four after Chiney Ogwumike’s injury in 2015 and how that elevated her skill set, Bri Jones’ improvement when Jonquel Jones opted out of the bubble season in 2020, and Karlie Samuelson breakout season with the Sparks on a hardship contract last year. 

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Unfortunately for the Sparks, Brink’s role is a hard one to fill. Her defensive versatility — both her quickness guarding smaller players and her skillful rim protecting — has been a nightmare for opponents. As of June 13, the Sparks were first in the WNBA in opponent field goal percentage in the paint when Brink was on the floor.

Miller noted that her defensive numbers are on par with players that have been multiple time defensive players of the year in the WNBA, and according to her coach, she’s “just scratching the surface. […] She’s an incredible teammate, an incredible person to coach, an incredible person in the locker room.” 

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Brink will also miss the Olympics, where she was slated to represent the USA in 3×3. USA Basketball 3×3 shared on X, “Heartbroken for Cam. We send her our love and strength.” FIBA 3×3 added “You will come back stronger” alongside a photo of Brink celebrating on the court. It has not yet been announced who will fill in for her.

Miller told Locked on Women’s Basketball, “I’ve had one year in my nine year head coaching career that I haven’t lost a starter, at least one starter, to a serious injury. It’s uncanny the amount of injuries that our league has gone through.” 

Following the confirmation of the injury on Wednesday, Brink’s teammates and opponents alike took to X to share their support. Dearica Hamby, who Brink has consistently praised for her mentorship, shared sweet photos and a message of encouragement on X: “Got you every step of the way 💜.”

Teammate Kia Nurse, who recovered from an ACL tear in 2021, shared on Instagram, “Comeback is gonna be special. Love you Cammy.” Fellow rookies Aaliyah Edwards and Angel Reese, as well as college star Paige Bueckers of UConn and Mystics forward Shakira Austin, also publicly wished her healing thoughts.

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Soon after, Brink posted on her Instagram, “​​You never think it will happen to you. And despite all the hard work sometimes it does. This is hard to fathom but I know it will only make me stronger. I will not be derailed and I will continue to love this life- I’m not defined by basketball, but it is something that I love deeply and I will work everyday to get back to it. It’s not goodbye basketball it’s just a see you later. I’m always so thankful for your thoughts and prayers. 💜💛 #delayednotdenied”

Miller finished his post-game press conference on Tuesday by adding, “We send well wishes to all other 11 teams in the league to stay healthy.”

Written by Cameron Ruby

Cameron Ruby has been a contributing writer for The Next since April 2023. She is a Bay Area native currently living in Los Angeles.

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