A genuine legend of the women’s game, veteran Australian forward Lauren Jackson will potentially prepare for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women by playing her club basketball in China after agreeing a deal to suit up for WCBA side, Heilongjiang.
The 31-year-old, who became the all-time leading Olympic scorer at London 2012, recently returned to national team duties at the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship for Women after a long lay-off due to a serious hamstring problem.
And there’s little doubt that fans of the Opals will be hoping she will be in the line-up again when Australia step out at the Worlds in Turkey next year, as Australia look to make amends for missing out on the podium in 2010, having landed a historic gold medal four years earlier.
Jackson will link up with her new team ahead of the WCBA season which begins in November and runs through until February.
There will certainly be a big expectation on the player, with club president Zhai Shi Jun looking forward to one of the biggest names in women’s basketball history trying to reverse the fortunes of his team who had a disappointing campaign last time out.
“We are very glad to sign one of the best female basketball players in the world,” he said.
“With Lauren’s signing, Heilongjiang will go back to being a championship competitor again.
“We warmly welcome her landing and we believe she will love her life in China.”
The player herself is also looking ahead to what will be a new challenge, having found success at every level during a glittering career.
“I’m very excited to be joining Heilongjiang and I’m looking forward to my arrival in China and in Harbin City,” she said.
“I have been very privileged to play basketball all over the world and this is a new exciting challenge for me playing for this club in the WCBA league.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the president of the club Mr Zhai Shi Jun, my new team-mates, coach and to being on the court wearing number 15 in the team colours.”
Whilst the departure of Jackson overseas means supporters in Australia will no longer be able to enjoy her lighting up the WNBL, Basketball Australia Chief Executive Officer Kristina Keneally still made a point of congratulating Jackson on her move.
“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,” said Keneally.
“We congratulate Lauren on her signing with Heilongjiang in the WCBA, where she will no doubt continue to amaze fans with her skills on the court alongside other formidable players.
“Lauren remains an integral part of the Opals programme 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.”
Jackson will step out in the WCBA against an array of stellar talented post players who could also be participating at the FIBA World Championship for Women.
They include the likes of Opals team-mate Liz Cambage, along with USA powerhouse duo Brittney Griner and Sylvia Fowles.