The stage is set for an incredible World Cup comeback for Lauren Jackson after the Australian superstar confirmed her basketball return for hometown club Albury Wodonga.
Arguably the best female player in history, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member is a three-time WNBA MVP, four-time WNBL MVP, four-time Olympian, five-time WNBL champion and seven-time WNBA All-Star.
Jackson, who retired in 2016 due to chronic knee injury, will play out of the stadium named after her when the NBL1 season begins on April 2.
Her return comes months before the FIBA World Cup in Sydney in September, Jackson now a legitimate prospect to add another world championship gold medal to her 2006 triumph.
The news of Jackson’s return comes with Liz Cambage’s Opals career seemingly over, the WNBA centre declaring she had “zero” interest in the program after her late Olympics withdrawal that followed an incident in a warm-up game.
Jackson, 40, has the backing of Opals coach Sandy Brondello, while another WNBL campaign now beckons for Basketball Australia’s women and girls strategy boss should she get through the NBL1 season unscathed.
“After a couple of months of playing NBL1, who knows how I’m going to feel, what I’m going to be doing or how I’ll be playing, it’s a complete unknown,” Jackson said.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing at the moment because it seems to be working and we’ll see wherever it takes me, who knows?
“I’m not closing the door on anything.”
Jackson’s Opals injection could be just the tonic for the World Cup hosts, who struggled without Cambage at the Tokyo Games to be humbled in the quarter-finals.
They’ve since dropped a place to No.3 in the world and finished third at the Asia Cup late last year.
Jackson credits medical cannabis for restoring her health after a degenerative knee injury denied the four-time Games medallist a fifth Olympics in Rio.
“We’re just over the moon that Lauren’s playing for her hometown and her home club,” Albury Wodonga Bandits President Luke Smith said.
“It’s huge for the Albury Wodonga Bandits and for the Albury Wodonga community.
“I think it’s going to be a really big year and we’re really looking forward to her playing in a stadium named after herself and in front of her friends, family and her two boys.
“They’re at the age where they’ll be able to remember seeing their mum play, not only basketball, but basketball at home too.”