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February 16, 2012 at 8:13 AM

Lauren Jackson an Aussie Olympic finalist

AussieLJ.jpgStorm All-Star Lauren Jackson was officially named one of 24 finalists for the Australian Olympic pool on Thursday. She’s expected to captain of the squad, missing the first half of the WNBA season to prepare and compete in the London Games.
The Storm has to pay Jackson, a 6-foot-6 center, her full salary in order to keep her eligible to return after the Games in August. Seattle has 10 home matchups lined up for after a league-wide Olympic break.
Jackson, 30, is a three-time Olympic silver medalist. She recently returned from left hip surgery and believes this Olympics might be her last on the grand stage. Because of the possible swan song and the Aussies talent pool, Jackson said she wanted to do everything possible to give her country a chance to win.
“We’re talking about possibly playing the Americans,” Jackson told me last year. “They could field three teams and win gold, silver and bronze. But we have some talent, too, and I want to have the opportunity to give it the best shot we can. Who knows how good we could be?”
Joining the three-time WNBA MVP in the finalist pool are Storm links Suzy Batkovic, Abby Bishop, and Belinda Snell. Bishop, who was on the Storm’s 2010 WNBA championship roster, said via Twitter her Olympic status would determine her future in returning to Seattle.

Storm coach and general manager Brian Agler said the roster for 2012 would have a fluid look unlike past years because of the London Games. Some countries still need to qualify while some young international players may not be selected, leading them to want to play in the WNBA.
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@JaydaEvans @vanwhoo22 @london2012 in the squad jayda, still have to make the team! But the plan is to make it& hopefully see u all next yr 15 days ago via Twitter for iPhone ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

For the complete list of the Australian pool, please click here.
Australia will have a selection camp in March and then an official pre-Olympic training camp, which tips off in May at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). Jackson, who’s currently playing in Spain, won’t join her Aussie squad until after that season ends, however.
“Six of the athletes are off-shore in Europe so they won’t be a part of that first selection camp, so it’s a really good opportunity for some of those other athletes to show their wares,” said Opals coach Carrie Graf, who also has phenom Liz Cambage in her pool. A 6-8 center, Cambage was selected by the Tulsa Shock with the second overall pick in the draft last year. “Who are the specialists who are potentially going to fill one or two of three spots on that Olympic team? That’s what we’re looking for.”
In recent interviews, Graf has changed her tone about her team’s goals once they arrive in London. Previously she said gold wasn’t the mindset, just getting to the podium after finishing a disappointing fifth at the World Championships in 2010.
Jackson joined the team about three days before competition began because she was helping the Storm win its WNBA championship. Others were late, too, and Cambage was a new addition, not giving the Aussies much time to build chemistry.
“We’re still ranked third behind America and Russia, and I’m looking to go one better than what we’ve done at the last three Olympics,” Graf told The Australian.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Storm C Lauren Jackson goes for a block by AFP.



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