Recuperating Lauren Jackson says she is daunted by the prospect of returning to train against the deepest pool of bigs she can ever remember in her time with the Australian basketball team.
Opals stalwarts Jackson and Penny Taylor were excited and impressed by Australia’s emerging basketball talent on display at a training camp in Canberra on Monday.
Four of the nation’s most successful exports reunited after a four-year gap and joined the younger brigade.
Jackson, Taylor, Liz Cambage and Erin Phillips haven’t played together since the 2010 world championships, when Australia finished fifth.
Jackson is taking a watching brief this week as recent knee and ankle surgery will sideline her until June or July.
And she was impressed with what she saw.
“There’s just so much strength and height,” Jackson said.
“It’s actually kind of daunting really, thinking I have to come back and train against these guys.”
Jackson will miss the upcoming WNBA season, but Opals coach Brendan Joyce wasn’t concerned about her match fitness heading into the world championships in late September.
“Because she’s going to end up with 11 games under her belt,” Joyce said, referring to planned tours of Japan and Europe.
Taylor, who has battled for much of the past two years with knee injuries, hopes to be fit for the start of the WNBA season in May.
“It’s really exciting to see twenty year-olds and 19 year-olds with such great talent and athletic ability,” Taylor said.
“I think the reason I’m having some difficulties coming back is because of the time I put in and the miles I put on the clock beforehand.”
Phillips, who has been traded from Indiana to Phoenix where she will join Taylor, was delighted to be back in the Opals’ fold after missing out on the 2012 Olympics.
“It was disappointing to miss out on London, but it didn’t shut any doors or burn any bridges, so it’s just great to be back,” Phillips said.
“We want to win a gold medal now. We’ve got the players here that can do it.”
Cambage wasn’t concerned that three-time WNBL MVP Suzy Batkovic and another established Opal, Jenna O’Hea, were not making themselves available for the world championships.
“I think it’s their loss to be honest, we’ve got so much great talent,” said Cambage, who has yet to decide whether she will pay in the WNBA this season.
With players scattered across Europe and America, Joyce didn’t expect his final squad to play more than three leadup games to the world championships.