AUSTRALIAN Opals superstar Lauren Jackson has signed on to play in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association.
The four-time Olympian will join the Heilongjiang Shenda Basketball Club, a team based in Harbin City, the capital of Heilongjiang province, about 1200 kilometres north-east of Beijing.
Jackson’s signing came after the Canberra Capitals were unable to finalise a deal in late July with the Albury native for the upcoming WNBL season, missing several deadlines to secure her services.
While the Heilongjiang team suffered through a dismal 3-19 season last year, the influx of Jackson and several Chinese national team players is expected to help turn around the fortunes of the league cellar-dwellers.
Fellow Beijing Olympic teammate Liz Cambage dominated the WCBA last season, averaging 36.2 points and 11.1 rebounds for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls and Jackson said she planned on making a similarly strong impression.
“I’m really excited, for me I think it’s a really good option,” Jackson said.
“It’s a short season, I get paid obviously and I get to play in a very good league.
“Really looking forward to it, the pre-season will shake the cobwebs off a bit.
“Hopefully I’ll get back to myself over there, I know I can still play.
“I don’t know if I’ll dominate like Liz did but I know I’ll give it a bloody good crack.”
The WCBA season starts about November 12 and runs through to the end of February should the team make the playoffs.
Heilongjiang club president Zhai Shi Jun said he expected Jackson would be viewed as a marquee signing for the league.
“We are very glad to sign Lauren Jackson, one of the best female basketball players in the world,” Zhai Shi Jun said.
“With Lauren joining in, Heilongjiang will be back to being a championship competitor again.
“We warmly welcome her landing and we believe she will love her life in China.”
Basketball Australia chief executive Kristina Keneally was also quick to congratulate Jackson on her signing.
“Australian basketball fans were thrilled to see Lauren back in action during the recent FIBA Oceania Championships, and proud to watch her return to winning form with the Opals,” Ms Keneally said.
“We congratulate Lauren on her signing with Heilongjiang Shenda in the WCBA, where she will no doubt continue to amaze fans with her skills on the court alongside other formidable WNBA players such as Maya Moore, Brittney Grinner and Nneka Ogwumike.
“Lauren remains an integral part of the Opals program, and we look forward to continuing to work with her — as we do with all of our Opals both in Australia and abroad — as we build towards the 2014 FIBA World Championships.”