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Vegemite makes right

The WNBA's Lauren Jackson compares the United States to her homeland, Australia

By Kesa Dillon

  Lauren Jackson Jackson is a leader on the court, but lonely off.  Adam Pretty/Allsport
In just one season of play, the Seattle Storm's forward Lauren Jackson has established herself as one of the WNBA's biggest stars. This past season she ranked among the league's leaders in points, rebounds, blocks, steals, double-doubles and minutes played. Off court, however, things proved a bit more difficult: By season's end the 6'5" 20-year-old Australian was so homesick that her mother flew halfway around the world to be with her. Jackson is spending the eight-month off-season in Australia, and Storm watchers are wondering whether she'll return to the States for a second season. "I'm leaning towards returning next year," says Jackson, but she adds that she's "not going to make any decisions right now." We asked her to list the pros and cons of life in the U.S.; here's her rundown.

The Pros

1. Great shopping . "There's this store called Zebra Club in Seattle that I absolutely love. The clothes are groovy. I bought a nifty blue singlet, a sort of see-through top that I wear all the time."

2. Familiarity. Although she's thousands of miles away, Jackson does enjoy some of the comforts of home, like Indian restaurants that serve her favorite dish, tandoori chicken. And she adds, "I love that in America, they speak the same language as in Australia. Obviously I get hung up on some words, but it doesn't feel as foreign to me as Europe."

3. Passions. Jackson is hooked on NBC's daytime soap. "The whole Lopez-Fitzgerald family is my favorite." (The show airs in Australia, but the episodes lag more than a year and a half behind there.)

4. America is the land of the free, home of the famous. "You can run into a major superstar any day. In fact, we're staying just up the road from Janet Jackson. I'm freaking out." Also, "I've met Lucinda Williams. And I got to speak to Joan Jett at the All-Star game."

The Cons

1. Seattle is not in Australia. "America is not my home. If I could have brought my family and friends, the Sydney Harbor, the weather and the little things in life that I've grown up with like Vegemite [a yeast-based spread], it would have made things a little easier."

2. Rough play. "A lot of elbows. The players [in the WNBA] really know how to use their bodies. Everyone is athletic, strong and physical. So you don't just get knocked, you get knocked to the floor. And it's not just one person -- it's the whole league."

3. Two words: Britney Spears. "Oh, no, I don't like her."

4. The American news media. Jackson says the media blow things "out of proportion," like her supposed rivalry with Los Angeles Sparks' center Lisa Leslie. (A friendly hint to Jackson: If you don't want people to write that you're having a tiff with someone, don't pull off her faux ponytail in front of everyone at the Olympics.)

5. No Fanta. "Orange soft drinks are my favorite. At the McDonald's in Australia you can get Fanta orange soda. Here you have Hi-C orange drink. That's a bit annoying."

This, then, is the question Jackson's fans are asking: Is Lucinda Williams enough to counteract Britney Spears? Can the Lopez-Fitzgeralds compensate for the indignity of Hi-C orange drink? While it may not be possible to address all of Jackson's concerns -- relocating Sydney Harbor to Seattle would be a bit difficult -- odds are there are plenty of Seattle Storm fans who would be willing to chip in and buy Jackson a case or two of Vegemite.

For more from our It's Your Life section -- including adventure racing gear, catching marlin on the fly, and more -- check out Sports Illustrated Women's September issue, on newsstands now.

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