Each week leading up to the Olympic Games later this summer, we will introduce you to the WNBA players who will be representing their countries in Athens. From first-timers to veteran Olympians, the WNBA's best and brightest stars will be showcasing their skills on the world's biggest stage.
|WNBA Team||Seattle Storm|
|Birthday||May 11, 1981|
Seattle Storm forward Lauren Jackson is hungry. The 2003 WNBA Most Valuable Player was the youngest member of the Australian Women's Basketball Olympic Team in Sydney that took "home" the silver medal in 2000. In the loss to the United States, Jackson got her first taste of American basketball that she would soon come to dominate, but has not stopped yearning for the gold.
Jackson, whose parents both played for Australiaís national teams in the 1970's, began playing basketball when she was just four years old and ultimately became the first overall selection in 2001 WNBA Draft. She was one of three Australian players chosen in the first round of the Draft (Penny Taylor and Kristen Veal were the others) and has become the face of Australian women's basketball around the world. And the Americans have certainly taken notice. Jackson led all WNBA rookies in scoring, rebounding, steals, blocks and minutes, but finished second behind Portlandís Jackie Stiles for the 2001 Rookie of the Year Award.
"LJ" was named as a reserve to the Western Conference All-Star team in 2001, 2002 and 2003, but replaced the injured Tina Thompson as starter in the 2003 game. She became the youngest player in WNBA history to reach 1,000 career points in June, 2003, and recorded the fifth 20-20 game in WNBA history versus Charlotte just a month later. She is already the Storm's all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Jackson led all players in scoring at the 2002 World Championships in China, averaging 23.1 points per game, and was named to the All-Star Team after the Australian National Team won another silver medal. She will captain the 2004 Australian Women's Basketball Team in Athens later this summer.
Jackson will be going to her second Olympics
(Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images)
"Definitely the track and field events - probably the sprinting."
Do you have a favorite Olympic athlete, past or present?
"Favorite athlete growing up? Probably Cathy Freeman."
What are you most looking forward to about Athens this year?
"I really do not know what to expect this year. I've heard a lot of mixed things about it. I'm probably looking forward to the basketball most. I'm not sure about the travel because the first Olympics I participated in, in Sydney, was so close to home for me. It is definitely going to be tough coming straight out of the middle of the WNBA season, but hopefully my focus will be with the Australian team when I'm over there and I know that we are going to win a gold medal."
(Storm teammate Sue Bird, sitting right next to her: "Those are bold words, man.")
What will it be like going up against the Americans, some of whom are teammates and friends?
"The American team has brilliant players, so it will be tough going up against them."
Some of your teammates chose not to come to the U.S. this year in order to stay in Australia and prepare. Why did you come back?
"For me, coming over here to play in the WNBA this season was the best preparation I could do for the Olympics. I don't think I would have the same competition over there and playing with Anne Donovan is helpful because she is such a great coach and gets the most out of me. She makes me work really hard and that is something that you can't necessarily get in the offseason in Australia. Everyone is all over the place until June over there so we don't have that time to train with each other."
Will it be difficult getting back into a flow with your fellow Aussies?
"Not playing with your teammates for a long time and then coming together is tough and it takes a little while to get your chemistry. But I know them all pretty well. I know them like the back of my hand so it's going to be great just to be back with them. All of us Australians have the same sense of humor and we're all so laid back that it's awesome being with them."
"It is going to be fun playing against her. If anything, hopefully I can come visit her in the Olympic village, check out what's going on over there and hang out with the Australians since I feel like I am one already at this point with all the Australians on our team. But Lauren is a great player. She is the 'it' girl for her team and I'm actually glad that I do not have to guard her. She's too tough."
Team USA forward:
"Very versatile with an inside-outside game. She has a passion for the game."
Team USA forward:
"The MVP, and deservedly so, she is one of the best players in the world."
Lisa Leslie, Team
"She is an excellent shooter. She has nice touch."
Team USA forward:
"The Aussie - Lauren is an Australian Lisa Leslie, maybe lacking just a little bit of Lisa's skill. She has the potential to grow up a little bit and be the best."
Team Russia forward:
"Great post player who plays a three guard. It's amazing what she does. She knows what she wants and it may be problems for Lisa Leslie."