OPALS shining star Lauren Jackson is expected to dominate the scoresheets and the headlines during Australia’s Olympic campaign in London next month, but Newcastle’s Jenni Screen will be happy to play a supporting role out of the spotlight.
A member of Australia’s 2006 world championship-winning team, the 30-year-old shooting guard has rebounded from the disappointment of missing selection for the 2010 world championships – and a career-threatening knee injury last year – to make her second Olympic team after returning from Beijing four years ago with a silver medal.
Fellow Novocastrian Suzy Batkovic, who was unavailable for the 2006 and 2010 world championships due to injury, is preparing for her third Olympic Games.
Screen has spent seven years in the Opals program, five years playing professionally in Europe with Italian club teams, and a combined seven Women’s National Basketball League seasons with the Australian Institute of Sport and Adelaide Lightning.
Opals coach Carrie Graf is expected to use the 180-centimetre stopper off the bench to lock down opposing shooters on the perimeter and hit shots from the same range when she is open.
‘‘That’s always been my role. I did that in Beijing, and I like doing that, and being able to hit that open perimeter shot and knowing who to get the ball to,’’ Screen said.
‘‘Just my experience and knowing the opposition, and being a part of the Opals program for such a long time; playing overseas, you get to know people inside and out, especially the Europeans, and I think that experience is invaluable. We’ve got six new girls representing the country for the first time, so it’s a good balance.
‘‘A good mix between young and old – and I’m definitely in that old group.’’
Screen credited the coaching and conditioning staff at the Lightning for nursing her through the WNBL season last summer, which allowed her to strengthen her right knee and stake her Olympic claim at Opals training camps this year and their European tour this month.
‘‘I was very intelligent in what I did and how much load I could take, and just being smart with my approach to things and realising sometimes that quality’s better than quantity,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s taken its time, but it’s getting there. I didn’t have a great WNBL season, and I struggled my way through, through a lot of pain, and I’ve come out on the other side, and I think I can contribute to this team in many ways.’’
Screen and Batkovic are continuing their Olympic preparation in Australia’s three-game farewell series against Brazil in Victoria this week.
Screen was rested from last night’s game two in Bendigo.
The Opals fought back from an 11-point second-quarter deficit to beat Brazil 85-64 in the series-opener in Melbourne on Sunday.
The final game is in Melbourne tomorrow.