Australian captain Tess Madgen has declared that basketball great Lauren Jackson is still at the top of her game as the Opals prepare for the FIBA World Cup that begins in Sydney later this month.
Three-time WNBA MVP Jackson retired from basketball in 2016, citing persistent knee injuries.
But after more than six years off the court, the 41-year-old is preparing for a comeback at the World Cup, where the Opals are hoping home court advantage can help them improve on their 2018 silver-medal finish.
Jackson is currently going head-to-head with teammates up to 17 years her junior at the Opals’ training camp on the Gold Coast.
When Jackson won her first WNBL MVP award, the youngest member of the Opals’ World Cup squad, Ezi Magbegor, hadn’t even been born.
But Madgen said Jackson was as fit as ever as the Opals prepared for their first game of the tournament on September 22.
“She wouldn’t have been selected if she wasn’t able to match it with the rest of us,” Madgen told AAP.
“She’s really elevated the fierceness and competitiveness in the group.
“In terms of her skill and her play, she really is arguably the best Australian athlete ever. Having her back in the mix is amazing.”
Jackson is set to come off the bench for the Opals at the World Cup and has also brought “invaluable” leadership qualities into camp, according to Madgen.
“She does it in her own way, though,” Madgen said of Jackson’s mentoring style.
“She’ll only really say stuff where she really sees it necessary.
“She’s not a super extroverted person so she’s quite quiet off the court and really tries to build those meaningful connections one-on-one.”