People of Basketball: Ashleigh Karaitiana

Beyond playing, Ashleigh's passion for basketball extends to coaching and giving back to the game that shaped her life.

Ashleigh Karaitiana's basketball journey is a testament to her passion and dedication to the sport. Starting in New Zealand and moving to Sydney at a young age, she recalled fond memories of watching her father play, which ignited a passion that would define her future.

“It was inevitable that I was going to be playing, regardless of if I wanted to or not.”

She embraced the sport, embarking on a career that has spanned over two decades.

Ashleigh's journey in basketball gained momentum as a youngster with the City of Sydney Comets. Under the guidance of Tom Maher, a Basketball Australia Hall of Fame coach, she laid the foundation for success.

Representing her State at national tournaments and earning a spot in the junior Australian team at the age of 16, she continued to climb the ranks. A scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) marked a pivotal moment, propelling her to compete at two World Championships with the Gems in Thailand and Chile.

Her WNBL debut with the Sydney Flames in 2010 sparked the beginning of a series of transformative experiences, including a five-year stint at the University of Hawaii. Returning to Australia, she played for the Bendigo Spirit in the WNBL and the Southern District Spartans in the Queensland Basketball League.

A long-standing dream came to fruition when Ashleigh joined the New Zealand National team, the Tall Ferns. Despite a lengthy six-year process to transfer from Australia to New Zealand, her 2018 debut in Taiwan was unforgettable. Scoring an impressive 40 points in her first game against India, she showcased her prowess on the court. She continued to represent the Tall Ferns in 2019.

After a brief hiatus for motherhood in that same year, Ashleigh took to the court with the Southern District Spartans just five weeks after giving birth. Her quick return showcased resilience and her sheer love, passion, and dedication to the game. Ashleigh’s subsequent years included playing in the WNBL and NBL1 North.

Throughout her journey, she has achieved significant on-court success, clinching three championships, two in the Queensland Basketball League and one in the SEABL, also adding finals MVP and All-Star 5 honours along the way.

Beyond playing, Ashleigh's passion for basketball extends to coaching and giving back to the game that shaped her life. Her interest in coaching grew as she helped her younger sister navigate her own basketball journey.

Ashleigh went on to become an integral member of the Bayside Jets, which was a growing club at the time. This provided her with an opportunity to apply her experience and aid in the club's development.

“It's rare to see players who have played at an international level or WNBL level do this stuff for free, the volunteer portion of it."

"I love coaching the kids who genuinely want to be there, who ask questions and never give up and want to get better each day,” she said.

Taking this year off to focus on her growing family, Ashleigh remains committed to coaching and mentoring aspiring players from the sidelines.

“Just because I’m not playing right now doesn’t mean I don’t want to be here. I want to give back because it’s rewarding in itself, but also to see that even the smallest bit of advice can help these young players make it to the next level. That part excites me,” she said.

When asked about her motivation, she emphasises that it's "bigger than me." For Ashleigh, the joy lies in helping people, witnessing the improvement of skills, and seeing players evolve into better individuals both on and off the court.

For more news on Basketball in Queensland, visit Basketball QLD.