January 2, 2015 – 6:49PM
Sports reporter at The Canberra Times
Lauren Jackson in action during her last game for the Capitals in Canberra on February 21, 2010. Photo: GARY SCHAFER
Australian basketball superstar Lauren Jackson has opened up about her “absolutely shocking” knee injury in China that has forced her off the court for the past 12 months.
Jackson will play her first game in 1779 days as a member of the Canberra Capitals at the AIS Arena when she suits up for Sunday’s encounter with the Dandenong Rangers.
The four-time Olympian made her long-awaited comeback to the WNBL in the Capitals’ 73-70 win against the Adelaide Lightning on December 19.
Jackson was rested from Friday night’s trip to face the top of the table Townsville Fire, with her knee unable to handle the load of two games in 48 hours.
Townsville won 106-58, making it the second biggest defeat in Capitals history.
Having recovered from the crippling hamstring injury that ruled her out of the entire 2012-13 season with the Capitals, Jackson was recapturing her best form with Heilongjiang Shenda in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association.
She was averaging 22 points and 9.5 rebounds a game when she felt her knee “crack” in a game at the end of January.
After having two weeks off, Jackson aggravated the injury from a jump ball.
“My knee cracked and I couldn’t run, I knew it was gone,” Jackson said.
“I flew back to Australia straight away, saw the doctor and found out I tore everything in the lateral part of my knee and broke the bone as well.
“The worst thing was they wouldn’t sub me out, I’ve never been in so much pain in my life. It was absolutely shocking.”
Jackson was on track to represent the Opals at this year’s world championships before she re-tore the same knee in May.
She has no regrets, however, about her playing stint in China, knowing it gave her the belief that she was capable of once again being a force on the court.
“It was the season where I came back from my hamstring, I got really fit and I was playing really good basketball,” Jackson said. “By the time my knee finally went, I was back to my old self, confident, doing things I hadn’t done since I was in my 20s.
“It was important for me to have that experience because I know I can still get there. That was a particular nasty injury.
“Whenever I get a twinge on the side of my knee, I am so frightened of doing it again. It’s one of those things I had to get through.”
Jackson registered 13 points on 3-9 shooting in 15 minutes off the bench in her first game since leaving China.
But more importantly, the 33-year-old, once regarded as the best female basketballer on the planet, added an inside presence defensively and provided support to MVP candidate Abby Bishop.
It will be the second game Jackson has played in her $1 million, three-season deal with the Capitals.
She missed her first season because of the hamstring injury.
It will also be her first game in Canberra since February 21, 2010, when the Capitals beat the Fire 70-39 in a semi-final.
That was the Capitals’ most recent championship after Jackson joined mid-season on a $220,000 contract for the final 12 games.
Jackson credits her long-time coach Carrie Graf and veteran point guard Kristen Veal with providing her with plenty of support.
“Graffy and Vealy have been my rocks this year and the Caps have been like family,” Jackson said.
“Everyone has said to keep pushing. To be honest, my motivation hasn’t wavered, it’s probably got stronger this year.
“The more rehab you do and the more work you do in the gym makes you want to be on the court more. Told you’re not ready makes you hungrier.
“I’ve been so fortunate that my teammates have been an unbelievable support. I just hope I can help them win and get through to the play-offs and see where we go from there.”
Jackson is honest enough to know her offensive game is a work in progress.
She’s not at the level yet where she can dominate games, but at 1.98 metres, she is always going to have the presence and experience to trouble teams.
“With Canberra it’s not so much about what I do personally, I want to help the team win,” Jackson said.
“I want to make sure I can help the girls win and help the team get better. “That’s the main thing for me. So long as I can be on the court, be a presence and play some defence.
“I feel that sometimes we struggle defensively, that’s where I want to be able to help out. Abby’s been carrying the load, but it showed in the fourth quarter when she was out, we were able to score, which we haven’t been able to do in a while.”
Jackson has logged plenty of basketball miles on her clock.
She was in the Australian under-20s team when she was 14, and progressed to the Opals two years later. She’s often played back-to-back club competitions whether it be in Asia, the US where she enjoyed huge success with the Seattle Storm in the WNBA, in Europe or in the WNBL with the Capitals.
She’s played in four Olympic Games, carried the Australian team flag in London and has a desire for an international swansong in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Jackson has one more season left on her deal with the Capitals in 2015-16, and hasn’t closed the door on playing beyond that. What she does know, however, is that the days of pushing her body through continous summers are finished. She has to be smarter with where and when she plays so she can continue to contribute and win more championships before calling time on her illustrious career.
“I still have that desire to be who I want to be,” Jackson said. “I’m really glad I still have that because it’s going to take me a long way in the next couple of years.
“I can’t control what people are going to say or think. It was more frustrating not to play, but at the end of the day, a contract’s a contract.
“People are going to get injured and I’ve had some pretty bad injuries the last two years. It’s more the pressure I put on myself getting back.”
Source : The Canberra Times