Sparks’ Cameron Brink suffers season-ending torn ACL

Sparks forward Cameron Brink will miss the rest of her WNBA rookie season and the Paris Olympics after suffering a torn ACL in her left knee during Tuesday’s game against the Connecticut Sun.

Drafted No. 2 overall in April’s WNBA draft out of Stanford, the 6-foot-4 Brink was driving to the basket against the Sun when her left knee gave away. Brink limped off the court before being carried to the locker room.

“You never think it will happen to you,” Brink wrote in a statement on Instagram centered around the idea that what is delayed is not denied. “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 see you later. I’m always so thankful for your thoughts and prayers.”

The Sparks announced the severity of Brink’s injury Wednesday. It is a blow to a franchise looking to rebuild its roster with a “core four” philosophy that includes a foundational talent like Brink, a day-one starter and defensive stalwart.

“It’s part of the WNBA unfortunately,” Sparks coach Curt Miller said after Tuesday’s game. “My career has been sprinkled with, the exception of the 2019 season, I’ve lost a starter to injury every single year I’ve been a head coach in this league and you just have to have the mentality of next person up and rally around it.”

Brink, 22, was averaging 7.5 points in 22 minutes per game in 15 career starts for the Sparks, whose 79-70 loss Tuesday night dropped them to 4-11 overall and 10th place in the 12-team league.

Her 2.3 blocked shots per game rank third in the league while her 5.3 rebounds per game ranked second on the Sparks who have missed the playoffs the past three seasons.

Brink was expected to be a key player on the four-member U.S. women’s 3×3 team, which will be defending its gold medal from the Tokyo Olympics when the Games begin next month in France.

“Our thoughts are with Cameron as we wish her a speedy recovery,” USA Basketball said in a statement. “As a result of Cam’s injury, USA Basketball will begin the process of selecting an athlete to join the 2024 USA 3×3 Women’s National Team. We hope to see Cam back on the court and representing the red, white and blue soon.”

The injury leaves the Sparks with 6-foot-7 Li Yueru as the team’s only active center. The 25-year-old second-year player from China is averaging 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds while playing 12.8 minutes per game.

Coach Miller said Yueru will likely have the opportunity to receive additional playing time with Brink sidelined.

“I’m a big unintended consequences person,” Miller continued. “Does an injury open the door for someone else to really start to blossom and gain confidence in their career? You look at my time at Connecticut, it was littered through that, where someone went down, someone else stepped up and really then blossomed into the pro they are today … but unintended consequences of injuries are it’s going to open the door for someone like Li for even more minutes if that happens to be necessary or the case.

“The best teams don’t always win in the WNBA, the healthiest teams win and we send well wishes to all 11 other teams in the league to stay healthy.”

The Sparks have been without 6-6 forward/center Azurá Stevens, who has been sidelined all season after undergoing left arm surgery in late March for an injury suffered while playing in China. The Sparks estimated Stevens would be re-evaluated 12 weeks after the surgery.

The Sparks, who are 0-4 on their seven-game road trip, next take on the New York Liberty (12-3) on Thursday at 4 p.m.

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