The FIBA World Cup tips off tomorrow in Sydney, Australia with 12 nations coming together to crown a World Champion.
Many teams will look quite different than they did at the last World Cup in 2018, but WNBA fans should recognize a familiar face with the Opals.
Two-time WNBA champion and three-time MVP Lauren Jackson makes her return to one of the sport’s biggest stages.
Jackson announced her retirement from professional basketball in 2016 after injuries ended her WNBA career in 2012.
The 41-year-old came out of retirement in April to play in the NBL1 East, a semi-professional league in her home country of Australia.
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In August, Opals head coach Sandy Brondello gave Jackson the call to represent Australia at the international level for the first time in nine years.
“There were a lot of emotions when Sandy rang me. I had a bit of a cry to be honest,” Jackson said in a release.
“I have been working my body hard, and I didn’t honestly know if it was going to hold up to my intense training regime, but it has and I’m feeling good.”
One of the teams looking a little different in 2022 is the U.S., who have made both coaching and roster changes since winning a gold medal at the Olympics last summer.
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Now led by Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve, Team USA is still favored to win its fourth consecutive World Cup title.
Sue Bird’s retirement and Brittney Griner’s wrongful detainment in Russia have put a new spin on the player pool.
Diana Taurasi will not be featured on the roster for the first time since 2004, having suffered a season-ending quad injury before the WNBA playoffs.
Olympic champions Sylvia Fowles and Tina Charles have also bowed out, with Fowles retiring and Charles making room for the next generation.
Only five Tokyo gold medalists remain on the squad.
The team will rely heavily on Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson to maintain the U.S.’s dominance in the paint.
Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Kahleah Copper, Betnijah Laney, Sabrina Ionescu and Shakira Austin are all set to make their World Championship debuts.
The U.S. last lost a major international game in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championship.
The reigning champions haven’t lost an Olympic or World Cup game since then.
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