Basketball icon Lauren Jackson has lifted the lid on the 'brutal' teasing she experienced going through high school in Albury.
Jackson's height would later prove to be a huge asset during her glittering playing career in the United States but it was a point of difference which brought her negative attention as a teenager.
Speaking on The Border Mail Sport Podcast, the two-time WNBA champion recalled a time when she struggled to fit in.
"School was hard for me," Jackson said.
"I enjoyed public school out here in Thurgoona but once I went into high school, I started growing. I wasn't super tall when I was young, it wasn't until I was 11 or 12 when I really took off.
"I was about 6ft 2in (188cm) by the age of 12 and I was teased a fair bit at high school. It was brutal.
"High school was really rough, it was a hard time and I was learning a lot about the way I was treating people too. I'm sure I wasn't the kindest human either but I think a lot of it came from the fact that every day I was uncomfortable, every day I felt like I didn't belong and every day I was told I didn't belong.
"It was hard, high school was hard for me.
"On top of that, my academic skills weren't that great and my parents pulled me out of school sport so I wasn't able to be an athlete at high school.
"At that point, I'd pick up a netball, I was on a Riverina team; I picked up a baseball, I was on a softball team. I was so naturally talented as an athlete that it would have been a great outlet for me to have school sport.
"But my parents wanted me to focus on education. Like any parent, you want to give your kids the best opportunity to be successful but for me, all I thought I was good at was sport so taking that away literally took away part of my identity.
"Even as a kid and all through the hard times and the trouble at school, the one thing I always had was my sport. I was able to go and play basketball and that's where I always felt safe.
"That's a lesson I'll take with my kids - I'll find out what they love and encourage them to really explore that.
"School was tough and it would have been great if I'd been able to play sport during that time but some of the lessons I learned out of school have guided me for the rest of my life.
"A lot of the challenges in my career as well, it's brought me to this point now and I can see things a lot clearer.
"I'm a completely different person than I was 10, 20 or 30 years ago."
Jackson, having finished Year 10 at Murray High School, was 15 when she left home to join the Institute of Sport in Canberra. It was a move which brought excitement and trepidation.
"I was a real Mummy's girl," she admitted. "I did not like leaving my Mum. I had real anxiety even when she wasn't coaching and I had to go away with different coaches, I really struggled with that.
"But I knew I had to get out and the minute I walked into the AIS, the halls of residence, I knew I was supposed to be there.
"That was the first time I felt accepted and comfortable in my own skin as a really tall athlete. Everyone was wearing tracksuits and I was like 'I'm in heaven, this is where I'm supposed to be.'
"It was amazing and it really changed my outlook on life.
"It took me a long time to get over high school and everything that I went through in those early years but being able to go to the AIS and be this whole new person - who was really who I was all this time - I just wanted to be an athlete and focus on sport.
"Leaving to go to the AIS was the best thing, the coolest thing, that could have happened."
Jackson's life changed when the Seattle Storm brought her to the WNBA as the number one draft pick in 2001. But a country girl at heart, city life never truly seduced her and the pull of family back at home always remained strong.
"During the Athens Olympics in 2004, my grandmother in Albury was pretty sick," Jackson said. "Mum and Dad chose not to come to Athens because they wanted to be with her in case she passed away but they didn't tell me she was that bad until after the Games.
"We'd just won the silver medal when Mum and Dad said 'you should come home, your nan's going to pass away' and I had to make a decision on the spot.
"We were vying for a championship so I made the choice to go back to Seattle but the minute I got back to Seattle, I said to my coach 'I have to go home, I can't do this' so I flew from Athens to Seattle and the next day, I was on a plane from Seattle back to Albury.
"I ended up getting back home in time to say goodbye to her, which was really special.
"She passed away when we were in finals. My grandmother was so important to me and not being able to be with Mum during that time was really hard."
Jackson was the league's MVP in 2003, 2007 and 2010 but for all the on-court success, other areas of her life were being neglected.
"I was fairly ignorant for a long time, just this athlete on cloud nine and doing what I loved, travelling the world," she said.
"It wasn't until things started unravelling in my basketball career in terms of the injuries that I really had to grow and take responsibility for my mental state.
"By 2008 to 2010, I was not myself, I was really struggling with a lot of stuff and that's when I made a conscious decision to go to university, find something else that I was really passionate about and start to educate myself because I was on a downward spiral.
"I had to pull myself out of it, you have to, because nobody else is going to do it for you.
"My biggest growth spurt would have been between 2010 and 2015.
"I had to go through a lot then and that was when I really started to take ownership and be accountable to the people I loved, not focus so much on myself because my career was almost over anyway.
"It was about my behaviour. I had to take accountability because my parents had sacrificed so much for me over the years just to make sure I was OK.
"My brother was often left at home, going 'Where are my parents? They're over with my sister' so I had to re-evaluate the way I was treating people close to me.
"Being a professional athlete becomes so insular. It's all about you, getting your body right, making sure you're in the right frame of mind to win games and you forget the bigger picture.
"I forgot the bigger picture for a period of time but it's made me a lot more resilient and it's made me the person I am today."
Jackson's life has come full circle as she's now raising her two sons in Albury - so why did the superstar who played professionally in four continents choose to return to the Border?
"It's the community, the people, the ease of getting around town, everything. I love being able to spend time in Dean Street, I love being able to go out to Lavi Square and get my chicken.
"I think Albury's the best place in the world.
"I often have moments where I feel so overwhelmed with emotion because I'm so lucky to be back here with my family and the people I love most.
"My cousins, aunties and uncles are all here and I love that I can see them when I want.
"I love that I run into old school teachers down the road, it's beautiful.
"I just think it's a magic place and I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to live here.
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