Written by Jon Tuxworth (The Canberra Times)
Former Australian teammate Kristi Harrower hopes Lauren Jackson will get the chance to bow out of the international game on her own terms at the Olympics, adamant the Opals still need her to reach their peak in Rio.
Harrower led the praise for Jackson on Thursday, who may have played her last WNBL game after she was released early from the final months of her Canberra Capitals contract.
Point guard Harrower retired on top early this year after helping Bendigo Spirit to three straight grand finals and two championships.
Injury has prevented Jackson from playing a single game for the winless Capitals this season.
Harrower and Jackson began their international careers at the same time, and helped spearhead Australia’s gold medal win at the 2006 world championships.
“I was able to finish how I wanted to and I really hope she does get back and play some games, even if it’s just WNBL,” Harrower said.
“I think the Opals need her still and I hope she gets to be a five-time Olympian and to be able to finish the way she wants to.
“I got to do that, and it’s the best feeling.”
While Harrower has played alongside Jackson at her peak, she said it was her performance when in pain in Canberra’s 73-70 upset at Bendigo last season that typifies her greatness.
“She was on one leg and probably unfit, it shows you just how good a player she is,” she said.
“It’s amazing how someone who is out of the game that long can still knock down open shots like she does.
“I still remember saying to our girls that Lauren on one leg is still an amazing player.
“Lauren never took a backward step at training, she was mentally strong enough to just dominate.
“One thing about Penny [Taylor] and Lauren I say to people is they were never selfish, on or off the court.”
Former Capitals skipper Narelle Fletcher said Jackson is a “humble champion”, rating her impact off the court during her WNBL career just as valuable as her on-court dominance.
“She just drew crowds with her name alone and with a line-up of kids of two court lengths getting her autographs, she’d happily sit there and sign every one,” he said.
“She gave back everything the game gave to her and I just don’t think anyone can be critical of her.
“What I like most is how humble a champion she is, she’s not a self promoter.
“Everyone walked taller when she was on court, she has that presence and aura about her which intimidated the opposition.”
Opals great Michelle Timms said Jackson has helped put Australian women’s basketball on the map.
“She’s been the face of basketball, she carried the flag for Australia [at the 2012 Olympics] and that’s the biggest honour you can have bestowed on you,” she said.
“Her and [coach] Carrie Graf have been the faces of the Capitals for I don’t know how many years. They’ll leave a wonderful legacy.”