Chronic knee injuries forced Lauren Jackson into retirement, but the Australian basketball great says the mental rather than physical demands of her comeback have been the biggest challenge.
When the FIBA Women’s World Cup kicks off this week, the 41-year-old Jackson will make his first competitive appearance for the Opals since retiring from international duty in 2013 after 220 appearances.
Jackson joined the Opals camp on the Gold Coast earlier this month, where his on-field physique has tested players up to 18 years his junior.
But the seven-time WNBA All-Star said returning to fitness and reaching the level of her peers would never be the biggest hurdles to her return to the international stage.
“It’s been a real head game, just because of the injuries and everything,” Jackson told reporters.
Jackson’s knees have held up in training with NBL1 team Albury-Wodonga this year and in home games at a stadium named in his honor.
But despite averaging 31.86 points per game in her first year on the court since 2016, Jackson said she doesn’t expect a call-up from the Opals.
“Until I was told I made the team, I didn’t think I was going to make the team,” she said.
“We are all the same, we all doubt ourselves.
“(Self-doubt) happens every day and it’s not a lie.”
Jackson eased the “what ifs” by seeing a sports psychologist, leaning on loved ones and coaching the house.
“I guess that’s how you react to (self-doubt),” she said.
“For me, I’ve always had a pretty positive attitude. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other.
“It doesn’t matter what happened. You just gotta go and keep going.
And while many eyes will be on Jackson when she comes off the bench against France on Thursday, the woman herself now feels on top of the mental game.
“The pressure is off now,” she said.
“I don’t need to prove anything, I just need to go out there and really complement my teammates and what they are doing.
“I’ve never had so much fun playing.”