Lauren Jackson is adjusting to Australia for the first time in six years as the Opals take on France in their FIBA Women’s World Cup opener.
Follow below for live updates from the game featuring Matt Logue, Megan Hustwaite and Michael Randall.
Q1: AUSTRALIA V FRANCE
MASSIVE howl for Lauren Jackson as she is introduced to the Sydney SuperDome crowd. She is 41 but a beloved figure in Australian and world basketball. There is a special atmosphere tonight.
‘I hope she goes away’: Hype builds for Aussie GOAT comeback
—Matt Logue and Megan Hustwaite
As the Opals prepare for tonight’s FIBA Basketball World Cup opener with France, the specter of Lauren Jackson’s remarkable comeback has echoed through every Australian opposition team.
Jackson, wearing green and gold for the first time in nine years, received a glowing endorsement from Team USA captain Breanna Stewart, who won two WNBA championships with Seattle Storm, Jackson’s former club.
She can’t wait to see the Aussie GOAT play in Sydney.
“It’s amazing for Lauren to come back to play, just for everything she’s been through both mentally and physically,” said Stewart, who sits on the court for the Opals clash.
“I hope she makes it. I keep telling her – I hope you have about 30 points”.
“The type of player she was when she was playing was one of the best in the world, so having her back now is (huge).
“To me, she’s still one of the best in the world and I think it’s amazing that she’s celebrated here.”
Earlier Thursday, Stewart scored with 22 points as his nation beat Belgium, 87-72.
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The Americans have used just 9 players with Las Vegas Aces Championship trio A’Ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum currently flying to Australia to join the squad.
Stewart’s performance on Thursday was his eighth consecutive game with 20+ points in all competitions. She averaged 25.6 points per game during that run.
Jackson was an unstoppable force in her prime and although she’s older and can’t do everything she once did, she thinks she can play a part.
Jackson represented her country with distinction and the honor is not lost on her whenever she wears her nation’s colors.
She was captain of the Australian team which, in 2006, won the country’s first senior basketball gold medal, at the World Cup in Brazil, and six years later carried the Australian flag at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.
“I’m so proud to be Australian. I love our country, I love putting on the green and the gold,” Jackson said.
“For me, there is no greater honor than to represent Australia, so to be able to do it in a World Cup in my own state, let alone in my own country, is super special.”
Women stand up at the opening ceremony
Powerful women headlined the opening ceremony of the FIBA Women’s World Cup on Thursday night.
Tones and I, Australian music sensation and hoops lover, performed his hits Fly Away and Charlie.
The Melburnian is also the No.1 ticket holder for NBL club Melbourne United.
The best player in the world, American Breanna Stewart, presented the 2022 trophy on the pitch.
Stewart was crowned tournament MVP at the last World Cup in Spain in 2018.
Meanwhile, the flags of the 12 participating countries were displayed in the arena, FIBA General Secretary Andreas Zagklis addressed the crowd in Sydney and a minute’s silence was observed for the death. of Her Majesty the Queen.
Yao in the house
Some of the biggest names in world basketball are in Sydney for the Women’s World Cup, but none bigger than Chinese superstar Yao Ming.
Ming, an eight-time NBA All-Star, is in Harbor City to support the China Women’s Team.
The seven-foot-six icon sat courtside watching his beloved Chinese crush Korea, 107-44.
Ming also sparked a frenzy in the lobby of the Sydney SuperDome, with Chinese fans chasing him for an autograph or a photo.
Ex-Opals captain still haunted by nasty Cambage Tokyo saga
Jenna O’Hea, former captain of the Opals says she’s still coming to terms with ex-teammate Liz Cambage’s ugly exit on Tokyo eve Games
As Australia open their FIBA Basketball World Cup in Sydney – their first major tournament since Cambage’s infamous practice match against Nigeria – O’Hea said Cambage’s departure a week away Olympics still haunts her.
“A lot of things have changed, still something I’m dealing with today…seven days before that first game at the Olympics last year, she left our team,” O’Hea said on ESPN.
“Rough is an understatement to say.”
O’Hea, once the towering star’s closest friend, said the Cambage saga had a huge impact on the Opals’ disappointing result in the 2021 games, where they were kicked out of the quarter-finals, hit by the American team.
“Such a main player was leaving, all of our attacks were focused on her, our defensive plans, a lot of them were focused here,” O’Hea said.
“So for her leaving under the circumstances that she left, that really shook us up and I think that showed with our performance and with our result at the end.”
How the Australian group’s rivals fared
In other World Cup openers, Australia’s Group B rivals Canada and Serbia fought a close battle, a sign of things to come for the Opals.
The Canadians held on for a hard-fought 67-60 win over Serbia thanks to 13 points from center Kayla Alexander.
The Serbs had their chances and still look like a formidable team, especially if they can unleash their punches.
The Opals will take on Serbia on Sunday night starting at 6:00 p.m. (AEST) before a clash against Canada on Monday night starting at 8:30 p.m. (AEST).
Perhaps Australia’s biggest threat in Group B, Japan, cruised to a comfortable 89-56 victory over Mali.
The Japanese looked super impressive, trailing 17 points from shooter Aika Hirashita.
Australia are expected to make light work of Mali on Friday night from 8.30pm (AEST), they will face a tougher task against the Japanese in their final Pool B game on Tuesday from 8.30pm (AEST). ).
Disturbing message from the captain of the American team for the World Cup
Team USA’s quest to claim a fourth straight World Cup crown got off to a flying start after a dominating 87-72 win over Belgium.
Captain Breanna Stewart was the star of the show, a day after she said the Americans were aiming for a gold medal for teammate Brittney Griner, who is being held in a Russian prison for drug possession.
Stewart finished with a game-high 22 points as she added four rebounds and three assists.
The two-time WNBA champion is widely regarded as the best player in the world, and it was clear to see why after her standout performance against Belgium.
Stewart’s impressive first World Cup display comes as she revealed Team USA’s plans to temporarily retire Griner’s No.15 shirt during their Cup campaign in Sydney.
She said it was a show of support for their two-time gold medalist teammate, who is facing controversial drug possession charges.
Stewart’s exclusive story with News Corp about Griner was followed Thursday by center’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury.
The Phoenix posted a tweet saying, “No one on Team USA wears No. 15 other than two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner.
USA Basketball will honor BG as they take to the court in Sydney at the World Cup. No. 15 will remain booked until BG is back home”
Team USA will face Puerto Rico in their second World Cup game on Friday starting at 10:30 a.m.
Opals will start the World Cup campaign against France
The Opals will face their most important match since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games when they kick off their FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup campaign against France at the SuperDome in Sydney tonight at 8:30pm (AEST).
A first win against France will be crucial for the Opals given their group includes Serbia, Canada and Japan – and they need to finish in the top two to qualify for the quarter-finals.
France will field a young squad with big names – guard Marine Johannes, center Sandrine Gruda and guard Bria Hartley not playing in Sydney.
As the Opals welcome Lauren Jackson to their 12-man roster after she made a remarkable comeback from years of retirement to be selected at the age of 41.
“It’s been a really big, intense run,” said Jackson, a four-time Olympic medalist and seven-time WNBA star player who first played for the Opals 25 years ago.
“The girls are feeling pretty good and it’s a really exciting time, but a nervous time for me.” Now a mother, Australia’s greatest player retired in 2016 due to a lingering knee injury before returning in April to play in her fifth World Cup.