SYDNEY – As expected, Lauren Jackson has been named on her fifth FIBA Basketball World Cup roster for Australia in her return to international basketball.
Tears weren’t so expected when the 41-year-old Jackson was officially told of her place in the 12-man squad by head coach Sandy Brondello. He came 10 months after a return to sport and as a mother of two boys.
“There were a lot of emotions when Sandy called me, I cried a little to be honest,” Jackson said Wednesday. “I worked hard with my body and honestly didn’t know if it was going to hold up to my intense training regimen, but it did and I feel great.”
Bec Allen and Cayla George will return for their third World Cup appearance, Marianna Tolo, Steph Talbot, Sami Whitcomb, Tess Madgen and Ezi Magbegor will return for their second and Sara Blicavs, Darcee Garbin, Anneli Maley and Kristy Wallace will make their debuts.
The team is filled with international experience, with Allen (New York Liberty), Magbegor (Seattle Storm), Whitcomb (New York Liberty), Wallace (Atlanta Dream) and Talbot (Seattle) all currently playing in the WNBA.
The Opals are aiming to add to their past excellent performances in the World Cup, having won silver in 2018, bronze in 2014 and gold in 2006.
Third-placed Opals were drawn in Group C, with pool matches against France, Serbia, Japan, Mali and Canada in the tournament scheduled for September 22-October 22. 1 in Sydney.
Brondello will lead the Opals for the second time as head coach after guiding the team to their silver medal in 2018. She said she faced tough selection decisions.
“Making the final cut at 12 is always tough with so many great athletes pushing for selection,” Brondello said. “The training camp in New York demonstrated how much each of these athletes wanted to compete at home, the competition for a spot on the team was fierce.”
“Of course Lauren’s inclusion is the talking point but from my perspective she did the job and deserves to be here, she will add another dimension to our team dynamic.”
Jackson, a four-time WNBA MVP, said she was stronger than when she played for Seattle and helped the Storm win two championships. She also won championship titles in Australia, Spain and Russia as well as three Olympic silver medals and a bronze,
She retired from playing in 2016 after knee injuries derailed her career. She had hoped to compete in the Olympics that year, but an ACL injury ended that dream. She retired from the WNBA in 2012, becoming one of the best players in league history.
Jackson had no intention of playing competitively again after undergoing a partial right knee replacement and dealing with a torn ACL followed by a staph infection.
“I’m so moved to talk about it,” Jackson told The Associated Press during training camp in New York. “I never thought I would represent Australia again.”
On Wednesday, Jackson said she felt “at home” with the current team.
“The age difference disappears as soon as I get on the court,” Jackson said. “I believe in this team and what we can achieve, if I can play a part in getting us to the podium then the hard work is worth it.”
Australian Team: Bec Allen, Sara Blicavs, Darcee Garbin, Cayla George, Lauren Jackson, Ezi Magbegor, Tess Madgen, Anneli Maley, Steph Talbot, Marianna Tolo, Kristy Wallace, Sami Whitcomb.
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