Jackson jumps closer to amazing Opals return
SYDNEY (Australia) - Legendary baller Lauren Jackson is thrilled with her addition to the Australia squad for the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup, a quarter of a century after making her Opals' debut.
Having initially insisted that she was not necessarily thinking about a fairytale international return when she came out of retirement earlier this year, Jackson has impressed enough with Albury-Wodonga to now warrant a spot on the wider Opals' squad.
Her 32.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, as well as her physical condition have all been seen as huge positives, with Basketball Australia and Assistant Coach Cheryl Chambers having worked closely with the 41-year-old to ensure she was a bonafide contender for the final roster.
"WITH MY SIZE, HEIGHT AND EXPERIENCE IN THE GAME, I THINK WHAT I CAN BRING TO THE TEAM IS INVALUABLE IN TERMS OF LEADERSHIP." - Jackson
It now means a shock return to the international stage for the FIBA Hall of Fame inductee has moved closer and the four-time Olympic medalist is excited at the prospect.
"I never expected to get to this point, so every day I get past here is a blessing and I truly feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to be getting another shot after the way my career ended," Jackson told the Daily Telegraph.
"There's a little bit of apprehension. I'm definitely a little bit scared and excited but who knows what will happen with my body. I've been very cautious from day dot, not to get over excited or put any pressure on myself. it's been a really long journey but every milestone that I've hit I've gone 'I didn't think I'd get to this point' but thought I'll just push it a bit further and see how much further I can go."
She continued: "It kind of feels like I'm a kid again vying for a position. When I found out I made it into the squad I had a moment of shock, it's reality now and getting into the mind frame again of competing to wear the green and gold again."
"I've been training since November and I knew if there was any chance of me even playing for Albury I had to get as strong as I could possibly get so I spent five months lifting every day and doing conditioning. A lot of work had been done in the background to get me on the court for Albury," Jackson said.
"It really has been step-by-step and that's how I've dealt with everything physically and mentally, to not overwhelm myself."
Jackson led the Opals to their first and only gold medal back in 2006 in Brazil
If Jackson does ultimately get the thumbs up and makes the final 12, it would be a remarkable story, having led her country to a historic gold medal back in 2006. This time around she might not be as guaranteed to be a team leader in terms of production, but is adamant she has enough upsides that could make a difference.
"With my size, height and experience in the game I think what I can bring to the team is invaluable in terms of leadership," she insisted.
"Once I step foot on a basketball court I'm pretty confident, it just comes naturally and has always just been part of who I am. I know I can bring that confidence to the girls, I can help them and that's where I think I can be helpful."
"In terms of my talent and ability to get out there and score buckets, people know I can do that but I think it's the other stuff that's going to make a difference."
Head coach Sandy Brondello believes Jackson has earned her recall
It was head coach Sandy Brondello who broke the news to Jackson from her WNBA base in the States and the playcaller believes it is deserved reward for the efforts that Jackson has made to get into viable shape.
"Lauren is a fierce athlete and competitor," said Brondello.
"She has put in the work and is deserving of her place in the squad. There are lots of questions about the World Cup but for now it's one step at a time. Every athlete on our squad is vying for a position to play, it's on home soil so we expect this intense level of competition," she concluded.