SEATTLE - Lauren Jackson has proven before she can juggle multiple basketball responsibilities, splitting her time between the Seattle Storm, various European teams and the Australian national team.
Her ability to prioritize will again get a workout during the next two seasons.
Jackson's primary focus now is leading the defending WNBA champion Storm into the 2011 season. But Jackson is also looking much further ahead after announcing she would miss the first part of the 2012 WNBA campaign to give her undivided attention next year to the Australian squad as it prepares for the 2012 London Olympics.
"The Opals have been really good to me in that program, and I just feel like I need to give back a little bit," the 6-foot-5 power forward said after the opening day of the Storm's camp Sunday. "I'm the captain of that team, and I just want to lead the way."
Some players might have considered such a decision a no-brainer. In fact, two players who were part of last year's Storm title run, Svetlana Abrosimova of Russia and Jana Vesela of the Czech Republic, are skipping the upcoming WNBA season to train with their respective national teams.
But for Jackson, who turned 30 on May 11 and is coming off her third league MVP award after averaging 20.5 points and 8.3 rebounds in 2010, it wasn't necessarily that easy.
"It was back and forth. It was one of those things where I had to weigh out what my priorities were," she said. "For the last 11 years, I've given everything to the Storm, and I'll continue to in the future. But for me, at this stage of my career, I feel like next year is going to be my last Olympics with the Australian team."
Storm coach Brian Agler, who also serves as Seattle's director of player personnel, understands Jackson's decision.
"We try to take pride in our organization to work with our players," Agler said. "Unlike most professional sports athletes, WNBA players have several priorities. Lauren has the Storm, her other pro team in Europe (Valencia beginning this fall) and the national team.
"The only thing I felt we could do is support her," Agler said. "But that's next year, and we're not going to worry about that now."
Jackson will return to the Storm after the Olympics.
"I don't think that was even a question," she said. "I'm giving it my all to the national team. It's not taking away from anything I feel about here. Everything that I love in Seattle will be back here, and I'll finish my career here. But next year is really important to me."
Jackson led Australia to the silver medal during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But she missed the WNBA season because she had arthroscopic surgery on her right ankle after the games.
She's confident such a situation won't arise again.
"The great thing is that while I'm training (for the Olympics), I'll be training with people who know my body really well, so they'll have me in great shape. So I feel pretty confident about my decision and feel like I made the right choice."