After a year of injury niggles and a drop in confidence, basketballer Mike Karena is looking to get back to his best on home soil with the Canterbury Rams.
Karena, 24, became available for the Rams following a stint playing in Spain with Actel Forca Lleida.
“I just want to focus on the basics again. I feel like I lost that kind of stuff and I think the Rams is a good place to do that. I want to get back to where I was,” said Karena.
Where he was took the 208cm centre to Asia with the Tall Blacks. After a breakout campaign for the Rams in 2016, where he helped the team top the table at the end of the regular season, he was selected by Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare to travel to China.
The highlight was scoring a team-high 18 points with a perfect nine-for-nine shooting record in the 98-74 win over China.
“I feel like I’ve taken a backstep in the last year . . . I want be the person I used to be and build from there,” said Karena.
“For me, it was being able to play with confidence. Back then, it was just go out there and do my job, but right now I’m kind of in a habit of second guessing myself . . . I know I can help the Rams but I also want to work on myself and push myself to the next step.”
With a number of NBL teams after the big man, his family also played a part in his decision to return to Christchurch. Karena is about to become and uncle and wants to be home to enjoy the experience before continuing his proffesional career overseas.
“If I could get an Australian contract that would be good for me, but if I can get something good in Europe again I’ll take that,” said Karena.
“I still want to see the world and continue with basketball but there’s so much happening here I’ve missed while being overseas for the last six years. I don’t want to miss everything happening in my family’s life,”
Knowing what Karena is capable of, Rams coach Mark Dickle is more than happy to have the Lincoln-born player back home for the winter.
“He’s a Canterbury kid. He wants to come home in between his seasons in Europe. From our standpoint, we’re just really lucky that he wants to come and play for us,” said Dickel.
“He’s something that we definitly need. A little bit of experience and just having a really big body in there can only help.”
Karena could feature for the Rams in an all-important double-header on the road this weekend. The Rams travel to Nelson to play the Giants on Saturday before playing the Super City Rangers in Auckland on Sunday.
If Karena travels to Nelson it will be an anticipated match for him after spending time as a student at Nelson College.
“They were the first team I played for in the NBL so I always look forward to playing there and against them the most,” said Karena.