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Lauren Jackson at 41 earns emotional FIBA World Cup recall

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Lauren Jackson isn’t expecting any special treatment in her fifth World Cup after being named in the Australian side nine years after her retirement from international basketball.

The 41-year-old was overcome by emotion on Wednesday when coach Sandy Brondello delivered the news and said she’s shed a lot of tears since deciding late last year to attempt to return to the elite level.

Brondello named a 12-strong Opals team for the FIBA tournament in Sydney, which gets under way on September 22, with the team looking to improve on the silver medal won in Spain in 2018.

Jackson admitted her belief had wavered about her ability to get back to her best; last playing in the World Cup in 2010 before chronic injury forced her first retirement.

“It’s amazing, but it’s been a journey,” Jackson said on Wednesday.

“There were a lot of emotions when Sandy rang me. I had a bit of a cry, to be honest.

“And before I was on the bus on the way to our first (practice) game and I started crying because wearing the green and gold means so much to me – every step in this journey has been quite emotional just because I was removed from this level of basketball for so long and never thought I’d get back here.”

Underlining the experience in the squad, Bec Allen and Cayla George will return for their third World Cup tournament and Marianna Tolo, Steph Talbot, Sami Whitcomb, Tess Madgen and Ezi Magbegor are playing in their second.

Sara Blicavs, Darcee Garbin, Anneli Maley and Kristy Wallace will make their debuts.

There are five current WNBA players in the Opals squad – Allen (New York Liberty), Magbegor (Seattle Storm), Whitcomb (New York Liberty), Wallace (Atlanta Dream) and Talbot (Seattle Storm).

The Opals are ranked No.3 in the world, and have drawn Group C, with pool matches against France, Serbia, Japan, Mali and Canada.

Widely considered Australia’s best-ever basketballer, Jackson won three WNBA most valuable player awards during her career with Seattle Storm.

Now a mother of two, Jackson said she’d do whatever Brondello, her former national teammate told her, but believed she was best suited to an impact role.

“I will probably be an impact player off the bench,” the four-time Olympian said.

“I think what I can do, what I can offer the girls, coming off the bench, is going to be good and I feel pretty confident in that.

“Strength-wise, I feel really good. I am really glad that my body has held up. I know every time I step foot on the court, I am getting better.

“The next six weeks are going to be critical.

“We’ve got a great group of girls who have embraced me and I just hope I can give them what they need to be successful.”

Brondello, herself a four-time World Cup player, said Jackson deserved her spot.

“Making the final cut to 12 is always difficult 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 on home soil, the competition for a spot on the team was fierce.

“Of course, the inclusion of Lauren is the talking point but from my perspective, she has put in the work and deserves to be here. She will add another dimension to our team dynamic.”

-AAP

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