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Stanford's Cameron Brink comes home for March Madness

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — For Cameron Brink, one benefit to playing near her hometown in the NCAA Tournament is grandma's cooking.

The Stanford All-American is back in the Portland area where she won a pair of state championships in high school. The second-seeded Cardinal face No. 3 North Carolina State on Friday in a Sweet 16 game.

“I got to see my parents last night, my grandma, my dog,” the Beaverton, Oregon, native said. “Life is good. I’m just soaking it all in, for sure.”

The best part? On Wednesday night she had her grandma's pot roast for dinner.

But on Thursday it was back to work for the Cardinal, who are making their 29th Sweet 16 appearance. Stanford has won three NCAA titles, been to 15 Final Fours and made 22 Elite Eights.

The 6-foot-4 Brink is averaging 17.5 points and is ranked third nationally with 11.9 rebounds per game for Stanford. She leads the nation with 120 blocks. In addition to her AP All-America nod, she's also among the finalists for the Naismith Trophy.

Earlier this month, Brink announced that this would be her final season with the Cardinal and she would be declaring for the WNBA draft. Brink could have used a fifth year of eligibility granted by the NCAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think to play my last potential game in front of family in Portland at home is bittersweet,” she said Thursday. “But it’s really wonderful. I’m just really happy to be here. I just have a great sense of peace, honestly, being here.”

N.C. State coach Wes Moore joked about being a bit relieved that Brink was moving on — because next season Stanford is headed to the ACC, part of the conference realignment that collapsed the Pac-12 last summer.

“I was hoping I was going to dodge Cameron Brink, but I guess we’ll get to see her,” Moore said. “I know she’s declared she’s leaving, but I guess we’ll get a peek at her.”

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer knew from the start that Brink was going to be a star. Brink attended a youth camp led by VanDerveer's sister Heidi, currently coach at UC San Diego.

“The first conversation I had (with her), I wasn’t in the room with actually,” VanDerveer laughed. “She came to summer camp, and my sister Heidi was running camp. Cam thought Heidi was me. That’s probably good because Heidi is nicer than me.”

Stanford offered Brink a scholarship when she was in eighth grade — which VanDerveer said Brink mistook for another invitation to camp.

Brink went on and led Southridge High School in Beaverton to two state titles in her her freshman and sophomore seasons. For her senior season, she transferred to Mountainside High School but was hampered by a high ankle sprain.

The Portland Regional is the last chance that Brink will be able to play in front of her hometown fans for the foreseeable future. In November after working with a potential ownership group, the WNBA shelved plans for an expansion team in the city. Portland previously had a WNBA team from 2000-02 but the franchise folded.

However, the WNBA is launching a team in the San Francisco Bay Area set to start play in 2025.

"I really think that Portland deserves a franchise here. I think people would really rally behind a team here and they would support us," Brink said. “Obviously the Bay is a good second for me, because at Stanford we’re close by. Hopefully one day. I think the way people are supporting women’s basketball now as a whole, there’s only more room for expansion.”

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness