Basketball comeback a mental game: Jackson

·2-min read

Chronic knee injuries forced Lauren Jackson into retirement but the Australian basketball great says the mental rather than the physical requirements of her comeback have been the greatest challenge.

When the FIBA Women's World Cup begins this week, 41-year-old Jackson will play her first competitive match for the Opals since her international retirement in 2013 after 220 appearances.

Jackson joined the Opals' camp on the Gold Coast earlier this month, where her physicality on court tested players up to 18 years her junior.

But the seven-time WNBA All-Star said returning to match fitness and reaching the standard of her peers were never going to be the largest obstacles to returning 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 while training with NBL1 side Albury-Wodonga this year and playing home games at a stadium named in her honour.

But despite averaging 31.86 points a game in her first year on court since 2016, Jackson said she never expected an Opals call-up.

"Right up until I got told that I'd made the team, I didn't think I was going to make the team," she said.

"We're all the same, we all have self-doubt.

"(Self-doubt) comes in every day and that's no lie."

Jackson has allayed the "what-ifs" by consulting with a sports psychologist, leaning on those closest to her and training the house down.

"I guess it's how you respond to (self-doubt)," she said.

"For me, I've always had a pretty positive outlook. It's just putting one foot in front of the other.

"It doesn't matter what's happened. You've just got to go out there and keep going."

And while plenty of eyes will be on Jackson when she comes off the bench against France on Thursday, the woman herself is now feeling 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're doing.

"I've never had so much fun playing."