BASKETBALL superstar Lauren Jackson will play with the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits as part of her comeback from a crippling hamstring injury — provided her recovery allows it.
The Opals skipper plans to make Albury one of her home bases this year after yesterday announcing she would skip the US WNBA season with the Seattle Storm to ensure a complete rehabilitation.
Jackson gritted her way through the Opals’ Olympic Games campaign with the injury, ultimately leading the team to a bronze medal, before surgery ended her hopes of playing for the Canberra Capitals in the WNBL this season.
The four-time WNBL most valuable player said she was already “beyond excited” at the idea of playing for her home-town team again, having scored 45 points for the Lady Bandits in their inaugural SEABL game in 2006.
Jackson, a former Albury junior player, would not be classed as an import for the Lady Bandits if she suited up during the SEABL season.
“I’ll be able to do a fair bit of my rehab in Albury,” Jackson said.
“It’s just going to be a lot of down-time as I get my body right.
“And if I’m in Albury, I’ll be able to train with the SEABL girls, I’m an Albury junior, so if I’m fit to play at any point and they’re willing to have me, I’d love to play.”
Jackson admitted she had no idea how many games — if any — she would be able to play, saying it depended on how her body responded to the extensive rehabilitation.
“It’s contingent on how my body reacts to the rehab,” she said.
“The main thing for me is that I’m going to be around Albury and being able to be around the stadium and just try to promote the sport however I can in Albury.”
“Just trying to give back to the basketball community a little bit, seeing as I have the time to do it,” Jackson said.
Jackson said she was looking forward to using her time in Albury to refine and improve some skills that a hectic professional schedule didn’t allow practice time for.
“Albury’s my home and I was really disappointed I missed the opportunity to play there for Canberra late last year,” Jackson said.
“This is an important opportunity for me as well because it gives me the chance to work on some things that I haven’t had the opportunity to, like work on my footwork and things like that.
“When that point comes when I’m able to train and play and feel really confident about my body and my ability, I’m going to be around the team as much as possible.
“Being able to come back to the place where I grew up, where I’m comfortable and be able to rehab there is what I need.
“I need that motivation to really want to push through and that’s why I’m really lucky that my family is there.”
Bandits president Michael Mack said the club would obviously be delighted to have Jackson play in any capacity.
“It would be outstanding if this could happen,” Mack said.
“To have a player of her calibre playing here, it would blow me away if it came to fruition.”
In a further potential boost to the Lady Bandits, it is understood the Border club is in serious talks with Jackson’s Opals team-mate Abby Bishop.
“The club has been talking to Abby and I think she would be amazing,” Jackson said.
“Imagine how good our team would be, I’m really excited about the idea of her playing here.”