The signing of Mike Karena is great news for fans across Canterbury, familiar with his ability to turn around a game – and even a season.
The power forward is a seasoned Tall Black and one of the most travelled men in basketball.
As a 22-year-old, Karena’s strong form and natural leadership caught the attention of Tall Blacks Head Coach Paul Henare, who named the power forward to his squad touring Asia and Europe in preparation for the 2016 Olympic qualifiers.
According to Canterbury Rams General Manager Caleb Harrison: “Mike comes from a strong pedigree of basketball here in New Zealand, and did the hard work required to pave his own pathway to international competition. He has gone from strength to strength, one opportunity to the next. He’s a fantastic addition to our 2022 campaign.”
The Nelson College graduate originally joined the Canterbury campaign in 2016, helping drive the Rams to the playoffs for the first time ever and win their first regular-season championship since 1993.
His latest move is a homecoming of sorts, following stints in Spain, the US and, most recently, Southeast Melbourne where he played for Rams Coach Judd Flavell.
The pandemic proved a blessing in disguise when the Phoenix signed Karena in 2021 as an injury replacement player after he impressed in the training trials.
Karena quickly became known for his physicality and inside presence and absorbed the lessons that come quickly when surrounded by some of the best players on the planet.
“Mike brings so much experience from around the world. He developed his game on the American university scene and got to know the game very well in Europe over three seasons in Spain (LEB Gold and Silver). He comes back to Canterbury with these insights from around the world and a strong connection to our community. During Mike’s season with SE Melbourne, he worked with Rams Coach Judd Flavell which will really pay off as Mike is familiar with Judd’s system.”
Over the 4 seasons with the Rams, Karena coached with Rams In-Schools and Mentoring programmes. He also served as a guest coach at the Rams Camps and local club development programmes.