Basketball Australia (BA) can confirm that four time WNBL Most Valuable Player Lauren Jackson has signed a contract with the Canberra Capitals to play out the remainder of the 2009/10 season.
The Capitals announced Jackson’s signature this morning at ActewAGL House in Canberra alongside ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and ActewAGL Chairman John Mackay.
Chief Minister Stanhope and Mackay played vital roles alongside Capitals CEO Mark Cartwright in providing and generating the funds necessary to secure Jackson’s services.
Jackson became the hottest free agent in women’s basketball when she signaled her intention to opt out of a two year deal with Russian club side Spartak Moscow in the aftermath of the assassination of team owner Shabtai von Kalmanovich.
The Capitals were quick to swoop and Jackson’s international clearance to join the Capitals was received overnight, just hours before a league deadline for player registration.
Under Rule 3.3 (e) of the WNBL Operations Manual, “A club can register no further players after half the regular season games for that Club in that season has been played.” In the Capitals’ case, that “half the regular season” date is today, November 25th.
“This is terrific news for the WNBL and basketball,” BA Chief Executive Larry Sengstock said.
“It is a rare chance for basketball fans to see the best player in the world playing in our WNBL and we urge the people of Australia to take that opportunity.
“We have a number of Olympians in the league already this year and the competition has been first class but adding Lauren to the mix will undoubtedly be a huge boost.
“Spectator numbers will increase dramatically as will media interest and they are just a couple of indicative positives we’ll see from having Lauren back in the WNBL.”
Jackson has played 154 WNBL games since her rookie season with the Australian Institute of Sport in 1998/99 and has won five WNBL Championships; one with the AIS and four with Canberra.
She last played in the WNBL in the 2006 Grand Final where she led Canberra to victory and was named Most Valuable Player of the Grand Final.
The Capitals have indicated that Jackson is not expected to suit up for the Capitals this week as her rehabilitation from a back injury continues.
Her return to the WNBL is tentatively slated for Saturday December 5th, when the Bendigo Spirit hosts the Canberra Capitals at Bendigo Stadium. That clash is the ABC TV Game of the Week, televised nationally on ABC1 at 1:00pm AET.
If Jackson was not ready for action on that date her next available opportunity would be the Capitals’ round 11 clash with Perth on December 12. That would allow Jackson to play 13 games for Canberra if it makes the Grand Final.
After eight rounds of competition, Canberra is running fifth of 10 teams with a 6 win, 4 loss record.