Storm All-Star Lauren Jackson returned to the court Wednesday after a 10-month layoff. Jackson, who had hamstring surgery in January, joined her Australian national team to defeat New Zealand 66-50 in the opening game of the Oceania championship.
Jackson, a 6-foot-6 center and three-time WNBA MVP, scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds in her first game since Seattle lost 73-72 to Minnesota in Game 3 of an opening-round WNBA playoff series in October. Jackson finished that road game with nine points on 1-for-7 shooting with six rebounds, missing a possible game-winner with 1.2 seconds left.
“I’m just happy I got that game out of the way. It feels so good to be out there pain- free,” Jackson told Australian Broadcasting Corporation News. “I couldn’t walk before I had the surgery. I’m feeling pretty good about things now. There was a period where I thought I’d never play again, but to come out here tonight … New Zealand is our neighbor, so it feels like home a bit and it feels good.”
The Opals face the Tall Ferns on Sunday in Canberra. The teams are vying for slots for the 2014 FIBA World Championships in Turkey.
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Jackson, 32, notified the Storm in February she wouldn’t return for the 2013 WNBA season due to the injury. Her contract was suspended with the understanding she’d return to Seattle in 2014.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.