Penny Taylor, Lauren Jackson and Kristi Harrower got the glory when Australia's Opals won the women's world basketball championship last year; now they are getting the big money offers.
Jackson, 25, is playing for Spartak MR (for Moscow Region) in the Russian Superleague finals on a one-month, six-figure contract after not even playing in the home-and-away season — she was busy pocketing $500,000 for a short South Korean season.
Now, Taylor (also 25) will cash in on her most valuable player award at the world titles. She has been the star of the Italian league for several seasons but will join another rich Russian club, Ekaterinburg, for the next full season that starts in September and goes until May.
Eurobasket.com reported that Ekaterinburg had given Taylor a two-year deal and paid out next season's contract with Familia Schio, with whom Taylor is playing the Italian finals.
Harrower, 32, was arguably the best guard at the world titles as she called the plays for the golden team. She is playing in the French finals with the favourite, Valenciennes, and has been pushed towards Ekaterinburg by her present coach, Laurent Buffard, who will take over the Russian team next season. He has been given an open chequebook to rebuild it to challenge Spartak and CSKA Samara, the other powerhouse.
He will take Harrower and teammate Sandrine Gruda, the French centre, to play alongside two internationals already at Ekaterinburg, Cheryl Ford of the US and another Opal, centre Suzy Batkovic. All are expected to be on contracts in the $300,000-$500,000 range. And with one more non-Russian allowed on the roster, Jackson heads a big field of targets. She would be at the very top of the pay scale if she decides to play in Europe after she finishes her WNBA season in August and before she prepares for the Beijing Olympics.
For now, Jackson is tearing it up with Spartak, which beat Dynamo 91-70 in the opener of a best-of-three semi-final. Jackson top scored with 26 points, and was on court for only 17 minutes.
photos Janos Schmidt