Opals co-captain Cayla Francis says she’d welcome the fairytale return of Lauren Jackson for the World Cup but warns the Australian basketball legend could be rusty.
The four-time Olympian and three-time WNBA MVP has been added to the Australian squad for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Sydney, set to begin on September 22.
The stunning comeback of the 41-year-old Jackson follows a dominant run for Albury-Wodonga in the NBL1 this season, in which she’s averaged 32.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per match.
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That’s despite the fact she retired on the cusp of the 2016 Rio Olympics due to chronic knee problems.
Francis says she’d be rapt for Jackson to return for the Opals but also made a point of reality.
“She’s moving all right and playing well, got her touch, but she hasn’t played international basketball in nine years,” Francis said.
“So she’d have to come in pretty soon.
“But she was my idol growing up. I had photos of her on my schoolbooks.
“I played with her in her last Opals games in 2013. It’d be full circle. It’d be really cool.
“She was a phenomenal player and at her peak the best in the world, and at 41 still would be super valuable.”
The highlight of Jackson’s sparkling basketball career came in 2006 as Australia seized an historic FIBA gold medal, conquering the world championships.
That followed Australia’s gold-medal triumph at the Commonwealth Games earlier in the year.
After the reveal of the Opals’ World Cup squad, head coach Sandy Brondello described Jackson as “a fierce athlete and competitor”.
“She has put in the work and is deserving of her place in the squad,” Brondello said.
“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.”
Jackson is a member of the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame.
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