Lauren Jackson talks about pregnancy, Liz Cambage, Opals

Lauren Jackson was Australia's flag-bearer at the London Olympics. Getty Images

Rookie status is something not attributed to Lauren Jackson since before the turn of the century, but if she seemed fearless as a 16-year-old on her first tour to Brazil with the Opals, her debut into motherhood has been much more daunting.

"It's been scary, actually, I haven't been through anything as scary as this," Jackson tells ESPN.

As any prospective parent knows, pregnancy is a whole new ball game.

Jackson has made no secret of her desire for a family, and a miscarriage in 2013 no doubt played on her mind when there were hiccups early in this pregnancy. However, at 19 weeks along, all is now progressing well and Australia's most successful female basketballer is eagerly anticipating welcoming her son into the world in February.

As is the modern way, the "world at large" discovered the news on Twitter, but, fittingly, only after Jackson had made sure the important people in her life could celebrate the momentous news with her first.

"I'm getting more comfortable talking about it now," she tells ESPN. "I'm getting rounder and starting my role with the [Melbourne] Boomers. There was going to be speculation, so family and friends had to know first. They supported me through my career and since my retirement. I've been surrounded by the people I love. I wanted to tell them first."

The exit of Lauren Jackson from the basketball court was a poignant moment for fans of the game, and, despite the long injury layoffs having given her time to prepare for the seemingly inevitable announcement, there was still a period of adjustment for the linchpin of the women's national team.

"I had thought a lot about it but when the time came it was still sad and a shock; for a time I felt empty," she says.

"Right after retirement I had a half-knee replacement and it took time to get to a point where I could walk, though thankfully it's less painful now."

After putting her body back together, Jackson focused on the future, as a board member and commercial operations executive at Melbourne Boomers.

"The timing was perfect.

"The opportunity came along early, within a month of me announcing my retirement. The Boomers were going through a transition phase with a new ownership group and building something special, which they asked me to be a part of."

It seems the perfect fit.

"I said 'I'd love to.' After the career I've had, I feel I have something to offer and give back to the game."

Her main role as commercial operations manager is to engage with sponsors. When asked about a mentoring gig, Jackson takes it as read.

"I'm starting to do some team admin roles, but mentoring? Not specifically, the girls know they can come to me; that's a given -- being on hand for the team."

Empathy for those still pounding the boards is evident, as Jackson recalls her commentary role for the Opals' disappointing campaign at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

"I think everyone was in shock. I can imagine the girls were devastated. The Opals have a tradition of success and there is an expectation that we will medal at the Olympics."

Calling the games from home due to concerns over the Zika virus (for now obvious reasons), Jackson knew the ramifications of this team failing to meet public expectation.

"That [the Olympics] is one platform where the sport is on the front page and where people get behind it. For me as spectator and as a fan, that was one of the hardest things; this is the moment when the whole country is watching. I felt terrible for them -- they put their heart and soul into it -- but they will regroup and move forward."

As a veteran of four Olympic Games, where did she feel it went wrong?

"Defensively there was a lack of structure. The pick-and-roll defence killed the girls in the end, and they were outplayed.

"Realistically, they didn't play too well across the tournament; in too many games, they were coming from behind. You can't play a whole tournament that way and be successful; the problems need to be figured out early and fixed, and they weren't. Its no one's fault. You could see they gave it their all, and it was heartbreaking."

Despite the disappointing outcome as a team, Jackson had high praise for Liz Cambage.

"Liz was unbelievable. If they were successful she would have been named best player in the world. How she played should be making people sit up and take notice."

Unfortunately, Cambage is one of the stars who won't be on court for the Australian Women's National Basketball League this season. For a number of her Opals teammates, the lure of overseas contracts proved too great -- something Jackson is pragmatic about.

"It's a fact of life in basketball here," she tells ESPN.

"We aren't even on television, which is a huge blow. We are a bit of a pathway, preparing players to dominate overseas. They will come back and play; people are starting to acknowledge women's sport here and attendance figures grew last season even without television coverage. If we can continue that, corporate support and exposure will follow."

In the meantime, Jackson is looking forward to the coming WNBL season, particularly the performance of great friend Suzy Batkovic.

"I want to see her be successful. She missed out on national team selection; my personal opinion is that she should have been there, but now she'll have that chip on her shoulder, and that will make her tougher than ever to take on. I'm just glad I don't have to play against her."

Away from her new courtside position, Jackson will be busy enough -- particularly when her son arrives. While she refused to be drawn on prospective names, his first supporter's colours are likely to be purple and gold, despite her years in the capital.

"Canberra holds a very special place in my heart, but I signed a contract with the Boomers for two years, so I'll still be working with them. They have been so supportive, especially when I was new to the job and had to tell them I would need maternity leave. I will always cherish the way they handled that."

For now, Lauren Jackson's focus is turning inward, and rightfully so. While the basketball world is eagerly awaiting the birth of a new Boomer, the rookie mum is enjoying the moment.

"I can feel him moving now, 10 fingers, toes, all of that. A healthy baby is all I want."